There is no denying that exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. What type of workout works best is a personal choice, but ultimately there are four basic categories when it comes to exercise; aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance. For this piece, we are going to focus on strength training.
You may be asking yourself, “What about weight training?” The fact is weight training is a form of strength training, which also includes using resistance machines, bands, and even your body weight. Whereas “weight training” involves weights.
All of the styles that fall under the category of strength training include the benefits we have listed below, which are quite numerous. Let’s start with number one…
Makes You Strong
Using weights or your body to create resistance in specific strength training exercises will make you strong. This is undeniable. When we build muscle we have more endurance, energy, our heart gets moving, and practicing regularly can even calm our nerves.
Strength comes in several forms. There is physical strength, mental stability, and emotional fortitude. They are intertwined but when one goes the others can fall as well. Have you ever let yourself get physically lazy to find that your mind gets cloudy and you can’t manage your emotions as well?
This is common and resistance exercises are one way to achieve all of these types of strength with one routine practice.
Makes You Fit
What does it mean to you to be physically fit? To some, it may be to have as close to zero percent body fat as possible, while others might feel fit when they diminish the spare tire around their abdomen. Being fit means a lot of different things to many people.
For the sake of argument, there are standards by which have been set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which identifies a physically fit person with certain “attributes that” pertain to someone’s “ability to perform physical activity.”
If your level of physical fitness isn’t up to par picking up a set of free weights will bring you to the place you want to be if you stick with it. Create a routine and before you know it you’ll be reaching weight goals you never thought possible.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Aerobic exercise has long been thought of as the best way to achieve cardiovascular health. While it is an excellent approach if heart disease or myocardial infarction is a concern, weight lifting and strength training are equally as beneficial when it comes to heart health.
The key is to reach at least an hour per week. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that was conducted on nearly 13,000 people, average age forty-seven, revealed a significant lowering in the risk of heart attack or stroke for those that exercised regularly, yet there was little difference between those that did cardio versus strength.
It seems that you can’t go wrong with either when it comes to cardiovascular function. What’s nice is you have options. Those who don’t like cardio can stick to strength training or you can mix it up and do both. People who are unable to do cardio activities like aerobics, cycling, or running have an option for working out.
Creates Strong Bones
Our skeleton is the core of our ability to function physically. The stronger our bones are the less likely we are to get hurt, our organs stay better protected, our muscles are securely anchored and we store calcium for other uses.
Everyone knows that lifting weights will make your muscles stronger but how does it affect the bones? Simply. When your bones feel the excess stress of the bulkier muscles, your bones cells are activated to start forming new bone to compensate and support your new muscle mass.
While cardio and strength training has been proven beneficial to heart health, when it comes to the bone density you won’t get the same level of bone strength from aerobic exercise. This is great news for women who suffer bone loss after menopause but we will get to that later.
Strengthens Muscle Mass
Muscle mass refers to the size of your muscles. When you see an Olympic bodybuilder you should notice that the size of their muscles is far larger than say, someone who doesn’t bother to exercise at all. A person who lifts weights regularly and follows a specific diet regimen could build some massive muscle mass.
Not everyone wants to look like Mr. Universe but having strong muscles requires a solid mass and a happy medium can be achieved. When your muscles have the appropriate amount of mass you will notice the difference in things you do every day. Whether it’s shopping, lifting your children, or attempting greater stretches on your yoga mat during class. Strong muscles make it all easier.
Better Control of Blood Sugar Levels
If you aren’t a sufferer of a blood sugar disorder then you might not be familiar with what they are and their function. Blood glucose is what the body makes from the food that we eat. Our bodies send it to our cells where it is used for energy.
It all sounds great but if our blood sugar gets too high or too low then there can be serious problems. High blood sugar can cause hyperglycemia, which can create damage to your nerves. Low blood sugar can cause hypoglycemia. Both conditions can affect people who suffer from diabetes.
Sufferers of diabetes can battle this disease with weight training effectively. Some of the advantages those who strength train with diabetes can expect are a better response to insulin and an improvement in the way your body uses blood sugar. If mixed with aerobic exercise some forms of diabetes might be turned around with weight loss.
Lowers Risk of Cancer
It’s risky to write that something can help prevent cancer, but the evidence is too overwhelming. The University of Sydney did a study that found that strength training alone was more likely to prevent premature death, particularly those that were cancer-related, than aerobic exercise.
Another study conducted in 2019 found that those who engaged in weight lifting had a significantly lower risk of kidney and colon cancer when compared to the subjects who did not participate in weight lifting activities. This is wonderful news.
Of course, we are not doctors and in no way are claiming this can cure any cancers that are out there. But if weight lifting might prevent cancer, wouldn’t you be more likely to add it to your routine? Sure you would.
Less Risk of Injury
Injuries are anything but fun. You’re running along through your favorite outdoor trail and suddenly your foot hits a rock and the next thing you know you are on the ground with a rolled ankle wondering how you are going to get back to your car. Sound familiar?
As a person who is prone to ankle injuries I have to admit, the more intune my muscles are the less likely I am to fall. This is because your tendons strengthen with weight training just as much as your muscles. Your ligaments become more flexible, which decreases the chances of them getting strained or torn.
The catch is you can’t throw yourself into an intensive strength training workout from the get-go. You should ease your way into this practice and consult a professional before you do. While weight lifting can help prevent injury, you can risk body damage if you don’t do it correctly.
We keep hearing about calories when we read about new diets and the latest exercise fad, but do you know what a calorie is? For those that don’t, a calorie is a unit of energy that is used by our bodies for every function we have. Walking takes energy, thinking requires energy, even burning calories requires energy.
Excessive calories in our system can lead to excess fat, which can cause a myriad of issues. Not only will you lack energy, the excess weight also adds stress to your bones, which are not growing any bigger because you aren’t lifting weights. This will lead to problems with your heart and can cause diabetes.
Aerobic exercise leads us to become sweaty, which gives the impression that we are burning a ton of calories. And we are, that’s for sure. But, did you know that you can burn more calories strength training than with aerobic exercises? Once you finish a strength training session your body will continue to burn calories during the repair process.
Enable Better Body Mechanics
When you stick to a weight training regimen your body will move better. For example, you will have better balance, be much more coordinated, and have an excellent posture. A study conducted in 2003 on 163 people over the age of 65 found that participation in exercise reduced the risk of falling.
Body mechanics are important when you are starting to weight train. One wrong move you can risk serious injury, which is why we always recommend beginners consult a professional. Some standard techniques that will ensure a positive training experience include lifting the appropriate amount of weight. You shouldn’t start with anything too strenuous and work your way up.
You should also use the right form instructed for each exercise. Don’t forget to breathe right and be aware of your balance. Rest is also important so your muscles have time to recover. It’s recommended to alternate body parts for a better overall workout. For example, legs on one day, upper body the next.
Don’t skip your warmup, don’t overdo it or rush. If there is pain, pay attention and seek help. And make sure to wear appropriate shoes. They protect your feet.
When we talk about flexibility we are referring to how your body stretches. A good way to put it into pictures is to imagine a person who can do the splits with no problem. They spread their feet until their legs are bent beneath them and the rest of us wonder how the heck they were able to do that.
As someone who cannot do the splits but admires those who can, I realize that being flexible has a lot to do with it. When your muscles are more malleable you will have fewer injuries, experience less pain, a positive attitude, a better posture, and improved balance. You will be stronger and able to perform excellently on a physical level.
Resistance training not only enhances flexibility and might even be more helpful in this area than stretching exercises. No matter where you are in life, in your 20s, 30s, or well into your 80s, flexibility is an asset you cannot miss out on.
Positive Body Image
A healthy body image is someone happy with how they look. This can be affected by a million influencers. Your appetite, body size, upbringing, and even your social surroundings like the internet can dictate how you perceive your physical attributes. Some people go through life with a healthy body image while others work at their whole life.
It isn’t any secret that the magazines, movies, and television shows cater to a slim woman and for a long time, anyone who had a little extra weight was seen as fat. We’ve come a long way and curvy women are loving their bodies for exactly what they are. We celebrate that.
But, if you feel that your weight is something that is affecting your body image lifting weights won’t only help you lose weight, you’ll walk away with a better outlook on your look the second you lose that first pound. A study found that subjects felt in improved body image just because they completed the strength training.
Helps Manage Chronic Diseases
While there is still a need for more research on the subject, a study was conducted on the impact of resistance training (RT) on several chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, chronic kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and HIV/AIDS.
The results found that “RT can produce meaningful [improvements] and quality of life” for those suffering from these chronic diseases. Weight training fights heart disease, diabetes, back pain, cancer, and many others. Of course, before you start any exercise routine you must consult your doctor.
When we exercise our body releases endorphins, which are hormones that give us a boost in energy. The more intense your workout the more endorphins your brain will excrete. Weight lifting and strength training are high-intensity workouts and can help you get the rush of endorphins you need for that energy boost.
With an extra boost of energy, you can get so much more done. You don’t need a study to tell you that the more you move the more energy you have. Anyone who has binged a television show knows this to be true.
When you remain lethargic for too long our bodies ache and our brains get foggy, which we cover shortly.
Prevents and Helps Manage Osteoporosis
We already discussed how strength training can create strong bones. This advantage is especially beneficial for postmenopausal women who could suffer from osteoporosis, which is a reduction in bone mass dues to changes women go through hormonally.
Osteoporosis occurs when a woman’s body stops making osteoblasts, which are the cells that create bone. But, their bodies continue to create osteoclasts, the cells that destroy bone, which can leave them weak and brittle.
As we’ve said, building muscle will prompt your body to create bone cells to accommodate the growth in muscle. Women who are nearing menopause that start weight training will be one step ahead of those that don’t when osteoporosis begins.
Improves Mental Health and Cognition
Maintaining a healthy mental attitude is essential for a happy life. But life doesn’t always work out and sometimes our anger gets the best of us or our situations bring us to a low point that is hard to climb out of.
Areas of interest in mental health include anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and sleeping patterns. One study showed that regular resistance training had a compelling impact on every single one of these issues and mental challenges. Not only that, it improved cognitive function.
This may be due to the release of endorphins, which are also known as the “feel-good” hormone. This could be because it eases pain and boosts happiness.
Lengthens Your Life
Everyone knows that exercise is good for us, but strength training, in particular, has been shown to increase the life expectancy of certain subjects. With all the benefits we have listed thus far, this final benefit shouldn’t come as any surprise.
Between strong muscles, a better mental state, stronger bones, a way to battle chronic disease, cancer prevention, a boost in cardiovascular health, among others, it’s no wonder why people who practice resistance training regularly have a higher life expectancy.
A study conducted at Harvard showed that “just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate.” Strength training brings benefits to your overall life that other exercises lack.
Now that we’ve gone over all the amazing benefits this type of exercise can bring to your life and the lives of those you love don’t you want to scream it from the rooftops? There is no need to cause such a ruckus.
Feel free to share this with your friends and family. Advise them on the information you found and promote strength training to everyone you know. Their life depends on it.
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