Jan 212010

As part of my “The Most Important Thing”, series, I’ve been pondering the question of what one physical activity (if you could only do one) would give you the most benefits. Walking seemed like a good candidate. Tai Chi or yoga seemed like possibilities. But on thinking about it, I would probably give the nod to strength training.

Strength training builds muscle, which burns more calories. Also, by triggering the production of human growth hormone and related compounds (to repair muscle tissue) strength training rejuvenates the entire body. It’s like a tune up for your whole system. Particularly as we get older, strength training is probably the most important thing you can do physically to maintain good health.

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t  devote a few minutes a day to exercise and rotate between strength training and other activities such as walking.

But there is one unusual form of strength training that claims to give remarkable benefits, both in terms of strength development and even aerobic and metabolic benefits. This is “slow” weight lifting, which goes by several names, the most famous being “Super Slow”.

The idea is this – instead of doing a normal lift with the weights, you take a LONG time to lift the weight up and lower it down – about 10 seconds up and 5-10 seconds down. This is continued until you just can’t do it any more – usually about 5 repetitions. Done this way, a whole workout can be done in 20 to 30 minutes. And advocates of Super Slow say that one or two workouts a week is all you need.

The science behind this is mixed. Some studies show that this kind of exercise can build 50 percent more strength in the same amount of time. Other studies seem to give the edge to conventional weight lifting. And although there doesn’t seem to be any reason why this kind of weight lifting would have superior aerobic benefits, many of it’s practitioners swear by it.

One of the disadvantages, say the experts, is that because the routine exercises the muscles to failure, it can seem very difficult for some people. A lot of those who try it, don’t like it. Personally, I love the idea. Spending a lot of time on exercise isn’t my idea of fun, and I actually LIKE the feeling of working muscles to failure. I even like the feeling of soreness the next day. It gives me a feeling of progress.

So what are your suggestions on the ONE physical activity that can make the most difference to your health?

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