12 Benefits of Strength Training
Many people who start an exercise regime at the gym (particularly women) will head straight for the cardio machines – the likes of the treadmill, bike or rowing machine. And while cardio exercises are certainly good for you, strength training can often be overlooked by beginners for a number of reasons. Maybe the weights area of the gym is a little overwhelming for people who don’t have experience. Maybe there are misconceptions about cardio being the best way to get fitter and lose weight.
But, whatever your fitness goals, strength training can play a vital role in fat loss, muscle gain, flexibility and overall mobility. Here are 12 benefits of strength training:
1. Strength Training Can Increase Your Metabolic Rate
Muscle tissue is what we call more “metabolically active” than fat tissue. In other words, muscle (even in its resting state) burns more calories than fat. In fact, it is believed that a pound of muscle burns around six or seven calories a day – around three times that of fat.
In other words, by losing fat and gaining muscle, the number of calories your body burns a day increases.
2. Strength Training Improves Your Mood
Strength training increases your endorphin levels. Endorphins are essentially naturally occurring opiates produced by your brain which help to list and improve your mood.
All forms of exercise generally increase endorphin levels but research published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2014 suggested that strength training is more effective in doing so.
3. Strength Training Can Improve Your Sleep
While research in this area is very much on going, evidence suggests that strength training could also help to improve the quality of our sleep. This is because it regulates vital bodily functions, like blood pressure, metabolic rate and resting glucose metabolism. These all contribute to stress reduction which is the main reason it helps with sleep.
4. Strength Training Protects Your Bone Density
Decreasing bone density is a problem for us as we age, particularly for post menopausal women. Decreasing bone density can lead to more fragile bones and therefore an increased chance of fractures and other bone injuries.
One of the key benefits of strength training is its ability to help to protect bone density, which is vital.
5. You Continue to Burn Extra Calories Even After Your Workout
With a good resistance or strength training workout, your post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is also elevated much more than with aerobic exercise, so you keep burning those excess calories for longer after the activity too.
6. It’s Better for Fat Burning
In one particular study from November 2017 (published in the Obesity journal) researchers compared 3 groups of people trying to lose weight:
- Those who did only diet and no exercise
- Those who dieted and did aerobic exercise
- Those who dieted and did strength training
They found that dieters who took part in strength training 4 times a week over a period of a year and half lost the most fat. That group lost 18 pounds of fat compared with 10 pounds in the no exercise group and 16 pounds in the group that did cardio.
7. Strength Training Improves your Energy Levels
If you’re constantly feeling lethargic and tired it may seem a little counterintuitive to then go doing a strength workout. The same endorphins associates with improved mood can also help you feel more energetic.
8. Strength Training Improves Your Balance
Regular strength training improves all aspects of your mobility and one that is particularly important is balance. Having better balance reduces the chance of falls in later life.
9. Improved Joint Health
Strength training can really help with your joint flexibility. And increasing muscle mass surrounding joints also means less pressure on the joints themselves. As a result, this can actually help to minimise the symptoms of arthritis too.
10. Reduced Risk of Cancer
One of the big benefits of strength training is that it is more effective than cardio (according to research) at reducing visceral fat in particular. The net result of that is that it can help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. In 2017, research published in the Oncogene journal shows that visceral fat cells products a high level of “fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2). FGF2 is a known cancer-triggering protein.
11. Contribute to Better Outcomes in Cancer Patients
For those who are unfortunate enough to get cancer, strength training could also help to potentially improve the outcomes. A research piece published in Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology in 2017 showed that muscle wastage is associated with a higher risk of chemotherapy toxicity, with tumours growing faster and thus with lower survival rates. As strength training can help to significantly reduce muscle deterioration, it could potentially help to improve outcomes.
12. Brain Power Boost
We know that strength training can actually help to improve brain function in most of us. But where this is particularly prevalent is in older adults whose brain function is declining. A study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics in 2016 analysed the impact of twice weekly weight training on brain function in men and women over the age of 55 and who were already suffering mild impairment to cognitive function.
Over a 6 month period, they improved their scores on cognitive tests notably. But these scores declined when the participants spent their workouts stretching as opposed to strength training.
This is potentially associated with increased blood flow associated with weight training.
A Full Body and Mind Workout
So strength training is about so much more than building muscle. It’s a workout for body and mind with a raft of health benefits that make it a really worthwhile activity.