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Every morning as I pedal over the Mississippi on my way to work I come upon the same grim joggers huffing their way over the bridge and along some circuit that will carry their aching knees and pounding hearts to some imaginary finish line. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is or whether the footing beneath their hundred-dollar running shoes is slick or dry. They’re out there cranking out mile after mile in pursuit of a healthier life.

And good for them, I say to myself as I coast down the hill. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving your body can’t be bad. I just hope they aren’t putting forth all that effort under the false impression that an all-cardio, all-the-time exercise regimen is going to prevent serious health issues.

Lift Weights, Protect Against Metabolic Syndrome

It used to be gospel that steady-state cardio was the best way to lose weight and boost your overall health, but recent research suggests that strength training is a more effective approach. In fact, a new study out of the University of North Florida argues that lifting weights regularly can actually protect against metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors that has been linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

More than 34 percent of Americans suffer from metabolic syndrome, but there’s a much lower prevalence of the disease (about 37 percent lower) among those who lift weights, according to the UNF study. That’s basically because strength training builds muscle strength and muscle mass, which help to burn calories more efficiently.

Surprisingly (to me, at least) only about 9 percent of Americans confess to lifting weights on a regular basis. I guess everyone else is either planted on the couch or jogging somewhere. And, hey, I get where they’re coming from. Lots of fitness experts still believe that steady-state cardio is the way to go and, to be perfectly honest, lifting weights can seem like a pretty weird way to spend your time. Hang out among the heavy iron for a while and you’re liable to feel a bit intimidated. I know I did (and still do sometimes), but once you understand the fact that the guy doing bench presses over there hasn’t the least interest in what you’re doing with those dumbbells, you’ll find that there’s no better workout. It gets your heart rate up, builds muscle mass, and improves your proprioception. Plus, it might just save you from having a heart attack.

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