One of my patients – let me call him Robert for reasons of anonymity -has recently started going to the gym three days a week.
Programme of Regular Physical Exercise
Now there is nothing strange in a man deciding to commence a programme of regular physical exercise and working out in a gymnasium (although I am amazed at what some of these modern gyms charge their customers for the privilege of exhausting themselves in air-conditioned comfort) but in the case of this particular patient, the news of his sudden interest in physical exercise amazed me.
The reason for my amazement is that Robert has just turned fifty. Moreover, he is of those people who during the past half century, never did much physical exercise. About the only weight lifting he used to do in school was when he had to carry from one class to another some of those heavy books he was so fond of reading – and the fastest running he has even done is running out of breath when walking up the stairs!
Physical Activity Prevents Ill Health
But I have realized that Robert is an example of that increasing band of people (who in the past we would have described as middle aged) who are now taking to regular physical activity. There are many grey haired folk pumping iron these days – lifting barbells, curling dumbbells and pushing or pulling weights on pulleys and machines – with the aim of building or toning up their muscles.
Why this 21st century desire to workout in gyms? Surely, by the time one reaches the halfway mark in life, there is no need to build up one’s biceps and try to look muscular – like Charles Atlas for those of my vintage (or like Arnold Schwarzenegger for those of the younger generation who are too young to remember Charles Atlas).
Resistance Exercises Prevent Diabetes
I believe that the main reason for all this enthusiasm on the part of folk like my friend Robert is that gym workouts (“Resistance exercises” as they are termed) are one of the best forms of maintaining good health. Keeping the muscles and joints working helps prevent the inevitable stiffness, arthritis and wasting of one’s muscles that comes on as one gets older. In very simple terms, exercising one’s muscles against resistance helps to burn up blood sugar. It then stands to reason that muscles which are used regularly burn up more blood sugar than muscles which are inactive – and strong well toned muscles obviously can burn up more blood sugar than weak muscles. Strengthening one’s muscles and using them frequently will help prevent the onset of diabetes – while for those who do have diabetes, physical exercise certainly helps achieve better blood sugar control.
Maintaining Normal Blood Pressure
And running on a treadmill or working out on a rowing machine or stepper is a good way of exercising your heart – which has to pump more strongly and move blood round your circulation faster as you move your limbs more rapidly. So this type of aerobic activity (which can be done in a gym even when the weather prevents you from doing it outside) helps keep the heart in good nick and the blood pressure within the normal range.
As an added benefit, if you burn up calories and tone up your muscles, you can naturally expect your weight to come down as well.
I think Robert has made a good decision. I don’t think he will ever win a body-building contest.