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Bodybuilding the Key to Good Health

Tip of the Week: This week I want to discuss not so much a tip, as a bit of news.

In the Dec. 19 online edition of NYTimes.com, columnist Tara Parker-Pope wrote about a piece in the esteemed medical journal Lancet Oncology that revealed a study in which a correlation was made between lean muscle mass and a lowered risk of cancer.

In a study of 250 obese cancer patients, it was discovered that 15 percent of the test group who had low levels of muscle development in comparison with the rest of the group lived an average of 10 months less than their fellow cancer patients.

Although the researchers aren't exactly sure as to why this would be, the findings support a claim I have been making for over 50 years now — that bodybuilding is the greatest panacea known to man.

Everything from heart disease to obesity to circulatory problems and now even cancer have been shown to be reduced with regular weight training. This latest research only confirms that fact. Could you possibly need any more reason to get thyself to a gym?

Q: In your opinion, what's the best form of cardio?

Joe: The best form of cardio is the one you're most likely to do. I could go on about how the stair-stepper burns more calories than the stationary bicycle, or how swimming laps puts the least stress on your joints. For a small percentage of people, these differences are worth knowing because they are so dedicated to their fitness regimen that they will make a point of choosing their cardio regimen based on the specifics of a type of training.

For many of us, however, certain forms of cardio are far less appealing than others, and if not given the choice we might forgo doing cardio altogether. If this describes you, then I suggest you consider the many possibilities when it comes to aerobic exercise.

Off the top of my head, I can name a few: running, jogging, walking, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, rollerblading, dancing, stair climbing, rock climbing, aerobics class, kickboxing, swimming, rowing and — my favorite of all — fast-paced weight-training. Yes, even weight-training can serve as a form of cardio exercise if the rest periods between sets is kept to 30 seconds or under.

I'm confident that you'll find your personal "best" form of cardio exercise from this list — that is to say, the one you'll enjoy doing most.

Q: I'm a 38-year-old woman who has been lifting weights for nearly four years now, and I love the results. But I have to say that sometimes when I wake up in the morning, my joints will pop and creak a little. A friend of mine who does Pilates says it's just as good for muscle toning but without the joint issues. Could this be true?

A: I'm sorry for your joint discomfort. While weight-training could be the cause of the problem, it could be something else, like arthritis or even improper nutrition. As I always do, I suggest getting to a doctor and explaining your issue with him. The answer could be a simple one.

That being said, the weights could be, if not the problem itself, exacerbating a problem. Going too heavy, using improper technique or training too frequently could all be to blame. If you're of good health and you are training in moderation, then weightlifting shouldn't be causing you such problems, which is why I suggested you check in with your physician.

As for Pilates, I don't know too much about it other than it seems to have become extremely popular over the past couple of decades, and I imagine with good reason. I know it's focused on strengthening the core — i.e., the inner abdominal region. I believe it is meant to also tone other areas of the body.

I'm sure Pilates is an excellent form of exercise, but to my mind, there is none better than weight-training when it comes to developing every muscle group and building strength throughout the entire body. Pilates certainly has its merits, though, and since you sound curious, I recommend you join your friend one time and give it a try. To me, any form of exercise is a good form of exercise.

Joe Weider is acclaimed as "the father of modern bodybuilding" and the founder of the world's leading fitness magazines, including Shape, Muscle and Fitness, Men's Fitness, Fit Pregnancy, Hers, Golf for Seniors and others published worldwide in over 20 languages.
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