Since 1970, exercisers, researchers, and the medical community have divided exercise into two categories:
“Aerobic” exercise, which involved jogging, walking, or cycling and was associated with health benefits and longevity, or
Strength exercise, which was associated with bigger muscles and football players.
Today, this divide persists, despite the fact that the majority of scientific research suggests that it is outdated. The beginning of this divide is Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a physician in Dallas who authored the book “Aerobics” in 1968 and then subsequently the massive commercial success “The New Aerobics” in 1979. With “The New Aerobics”, Cooper spawned the Aerobics boom and taught us that cardiorespiratory exercise is good for our health, while strength training should be relegated to bodybuilders and football players; a mindset that exists still today.
Dr. Stuart Phillips from McMaster University in Canada presented recently at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting and challenged this divide in his presentation “What if Kenneth Cooper and Jim Fixx had been weightlifters?” If Dr. Cooper had enjoyed the “hobby” of strength training (instead of jogging), our current views of exercise might be wildly different.
Dr. Phillips made a compelling case for strength exercise being under-appreciated and misunderstood by exercisers and exercise professionals alike. He and a panel of experts discussed strength training as the prophylactic for aging with benefits ranging from enhanced metabolic rate to fall prevention. He summarized by stating, “Practiced regularly, resistance training can provide a superior preventive or prophylactic effect for some chronic health conditions compared to aerobic training.”