Bodybuilding can be divided into two distinct camps: So-called "natural," and drug-using bodybuilders (DUB). The term "natural" refers to those who choose to eschew the use of any pharmacological substance for the purposes of building muscle mass or losing excess body fat. Because of a rash of recent deaths among younger bodybuilders, bodybuilding has recently gained a reputation as being a dangerous activity. Indeed, even professional bodybuilders, such as 4-time Mr.Olympia Jay Cutler has openly observed that bodybuilding competition as it is today can be hazardous to health. But one thing that is often overlooked in these criticisms of bodybuilding is that bodybuilding itself is an inherently healthy activity. The primary form of exercise used in bodybuilding, resistance training, involves the use of weights, machines, or other resistance training devices such as resistance bands. For years, lifting weights carried a medical stigma. Weight training was thought to promote diseases that would result in early mortality. These diseases included hypertension and heart problems. Since cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death it appeared to make sense that anything that could be detrimental to heart health could be life-threatening.
But the tide eventually turned when it comes to the true effects of resistance training. As medical science progressed it became apparent that if anything, weight-training or resistance exercise is one of the best activities you can engage in. In the past, all the credit for health improvement related to exercise was given to aerobic or endurance training. On the surface, this made sense since aerobic exercise is well-known to provide benefits for cardiovascular health. The benefits provided by resistance training, such as larger muscles and greater strength, were thought to provide only minor health benefits. But it's now known that resistance training and aerobics are equally important for maximal health benefits. The most recent studies that have examined the effects of resistance training show that it's essential for maintaining mobility and strength. This is significant because a loss of both mobility and strength are potent harbingers of impending mortality. In short, if you allow yourself to get weak and lose the ability to move freely, your life will be considerably shortened. Rates of sarcopenia, a term meaning a loss of muscle mass, are now considered a major risk factor for mortality. Conversely, while lifting weights may not allow you to live forever, it will without question extend your health span or the years of health that is free from debilitating diseases.
I can relate to all this because my original motivation to get into a regular weight-training program was a desire to live longer. While I admittedly was also influenced by bodybuilding icons such as Steve Reeves and Reg Park, at 11 years old I reasoned that if you had larger muscles and were stronger, that bode well for extended longevity. No doubt the recent deaths of . . .