When we think of strength training, it’s very common to imagine athletes. Or gym jocks lifting weights and juggling dumbbells.
But the truth is, anyone can do strength training. And for any other reason aside from muscular fitness.
Before we delve into its various health benefits, let’s first see what strength training entails.
What is strength training?
Strength training is a form of physical activity meant to enhance the body’s strength and endurance.
It’s sometimes called resistance training. Strength exercises make your muscles work against a resisting force like free weights or your body weight.
Exercises that develop your strength include:
- Lifting weights and using weight machines
- Using resistance bands
- Doing exercises that use your weight as resistance (pull-ups, dips, push-ups and the like)
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends full-body, muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
And if you’re a beginner, take baby steps.
And then gradually increase your exercise routine. As you become more comfortable, increase the intensity, repetition as well as variety.
What are the reasons why you should start doing strength training?
The health benefits of strength training encompass both physical and mental wellness.
1. Builds muscle strength and mass
Moving and using your muscles influences the strength of the muscles.
If you don’t use your muscles, the body will assume that those muscles are no longer needed.
Neglected muscles will eventually undergo muscle atrophy – the wasting away of the muscle cells.
Now here comes the good news:
Strength training is especially effective at inducing the opposite of atrophy.
It induces skeletal muscle hypertrophy or the enlargement of the muscle cells. Here’s why.
Cells grow when you regularly do strength training. This adds to the muscle size, improves its performance, and boosts its strength.
So, if you feel like you want to be able to properly execute daily tasks that need muscle strength, this type of training is a sure way to achieve that.
2. Can lower body fat
A common misconception about strength training is that it’ll make you look big and buff like a bodybuilder.
It’s not entirely true.
Sure, you’ll build some lean muscle with high-intensity routines for a long period.
But strength training not only gives you strength, but also a healthier, leaner figure.
Also, it can help lower body fat.
And with a better physique, people tend to start seeing themselves in a better light.
One research among midlife and older women found something profound.
It showed that regardless of the actual physical changes, doing strength training enhances the perception of one’s body image.
3. Improves flexibility and mobility
Another benefit of resistance training is its positive impact on the flexibility of the body’s joints.
One study reported that previously sedentary young women were able to improve their flexibility and mobility in just 8 weeks.
This happened when they consistently did strength training.
Another study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found similar results.
The researchers found that increased joint mobility may be due to the good muscle strength resistance training brings.
Strength plus flexibility? You’re hitting two (possibly more) birds with one stone when you regularly do strength training.
4. Promotes bone health
Muscle synergy helps our bodies move and become flexible. This is possible because muscles are attached to the bones.
So, muscles support bones and vice versa. When you move, train, and develop your muscles, you improve bone strength too.
In that regard, strength training can help:
The latter is especially important for people more prone to developing bone diseases.
5. Boosts cognitive capabilities
Why choose between being only physically active or intellectually able when you can be both?
Resistance training can contribute to one’s cognitive strength.
Studies suggest that resistance training can improve neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. This also has positive effects on brain aging.
But that’s not all.
Another study reported that strength training stimulates the brain. And it boosts cognitive functions especially memory.
Also, researchers noticed improved cognitive capacity among a group of elderly women who did strength training.
These studies mostly focus on the elderly as they are the vulnerable ones to cognitive decline.
6. Promotes good mental health
Here’s the thing about exercising: it helps you feel fulfilled. It puts your mind at ease and relaxes your body.
This is most likely due to hormones called endorphins.
As one of the “happy hormones,” endorphins activate an exercise-induced euphoria. This is what makes you feel good after working out.
Here’s something else:
Strength training or exercises, in general, promotes better mental health because of social interactions.
Connecting with people and engaging in a healthy social activity has a way of releasing good feelings.
Who knew lifting weights could also help lift your spirits?
7. Reduces risk of injury
If you want to develop your muscles, you’ll need to do strength training with proper form. And sometimes, for a certain amount of time each session.
When you do it right, strength training can improve performance and also reduce the risk of injuries.
Proper form and muscle engagement means you will be able to execute physical tasks and avoid accidents.
Resistance training also improves your balance, lowering the chances of you getting injured.
Aside from athletic training, this type of physical activity is also important for rehabilitation or prevention of muscular and orthopedic injuries.
8. Lowers risks of getting sick
Researchers from the University of Maryland reported many preventive benefits of strength training.
For example, strength training helps fight against musculoskeletal, pulmonary, mental, metabolic, and cardiovascular risk factors.
But there’s even more.
Doing strength exercises can help reduce the risk of:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Muscle strength and balance in patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s diseases
Indeed, a leaner and stronger physique makes a healthier you.
9. Prolongs lifespan
Living a long and happy life is probably one of the top wishes most, if not all, people have.
To achieve that, you must commit to a healthy active lifestyle. And strength training is a good way to do that.
Some might still be doubtful of the health benefits from strength training.
If you prefer a slimmer physique, don’t worry. Strength training is more than building muscle mass and strength.
Strength training also makes you look and feel good, forming a healthier you from head to toe, both inside and out.
So, what are you waiting for? Those weights aren’t gonna lift themselves, are they?