Gone are the days when lifting weights was reserved for bodybuilders and professional athletes. In fact, the Physical activity guidelines for Americans recommend thatallAdults do at least two full-body strength workouts each week.
Why? Because the benefits of strength training extend to all aspects of your physical, mental and emotional health, says Jason Li, CPT, Certified Personal Trainer and Weightlifting Coach with SoHo Strength Lab in New York City.
Do you already lift regularly? Or just not convincedneeddo weight training ? (Trust us, you do.)
Regardless of your current relationship with weights, here are 12 strength training benefits worth celebrating.
Strength training includes any activity that works your muscles against resistance (which is why it is also called resistance training). And by stressing your muscles, it stimulates them to grow and become stronger.
It happens quickly. In fact, in an August 2020 study in theJournal of Aging and Physical Activity, The elderly significantly improved their total muscle strength after just 16 hours of resistance training.
2. Healthy body fat levels
Strengthening your muscles has a significant effect on the fat cells in your body. In a great December 2014ObesityIn one study, Harvard researchers found that minute-by-minute strength training regulates age-related belly fat more than cardio. There are several reasons.
Challenging weightlifting exercises trigger a temporary metabolic stimulation, known as excessive post-exercise oxygen uptake, or EPOC, depending on the American Council on Exercise. This is because your body needs extra oxygen to cool down and repair itself after weight training. Plus, in the long run, building lean muscle mass increases your resting metabolic rate.
Strength training can also promote healthy levels of body fat by affecting hormone levels and reducing inflammation.
3. Mental and emotional health
Many people first gain weight for the physical health benefits of weightlifting, but stick with it for the mental and emotional benefits.
Research, including a May 2018 study inJAMA Psychiatry, Has shown that resistance training reduces the frequency and severity of depressive symptoms. And this regardless of physical changes. It also helps in the management of anxiety.
Strength training increases the levels of feel-good chemicals (like endorphins and endocannabinoids) in the brain. It also affects the levels of drain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which promotes brain health.
“Most people aren’t able to do great push-ups or pull-ups initially, but training to achieve these goals and unlock these new skills is very motivating,” says a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Albert Matheny, DT, CSCS.
Don’t be surprised if the confidence that comes with reaching new strength goals carries over into your life outside of the gym.
5. Strong balance and stability
“Many strength training movements require your body to be balanced and mobile,” explains Matheny. As you move in different planes of motion and from different angles during strength training, your major muscle groups and the small muscles in your body become stronger and more stable.
Falls are the leading cause of death from trauma in adults over 65, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. So feeling balanced and stable in your body becomes more and more important as you get older.
6. Ease during the acts of daily life
What are the acts of daily life? Also known as ADLs, these are common daily tasks such as showering, shopping, walking and climbing stairs.
“If you’ve practiced deadlift from a heavy kettlebell, for example, you feel a lot more confident – and safer – to pick up boxes for, say, moving,” says Matheny.
The stronger you are in your strength training workouts, the stronger you are in the world.
Being stuck in one position all day – like sitting in front of your computer – weakens the stabilizing muscles in your torso, which play a major role in your posture, Li explains.
Regular strength training can help increase the endurance of the muscles in your core that are responsible for a proud posture, he explains.
Strength training can also help you improve in your favorite non-sport activities. “Sports that require a lot of short bursts of power and longer periods of low activity or rest benefit tremendously from strength training,” says Li.
Numerous research works confirm this. For example, a study from June 2016 in theJournal of Strength and Conditioning Researchfound that six weeks of strength training benefited the sprinting ability of professional soccer players. And a study from May 2014 inScandinavian Journal of Sports Medicine and ScienceFound that 25 weeks of heavy lifting helps riders pedal more powerfully.
Strength training is important both to support bone growth in our younger years and to maintain that bone density and strength as much as possible as we age.
How Does Strength Training Benefit Your Bones? When you forcefully squeeze your muscles, they end up pulling and gently straining your bones. Plus, if you do your strength training while standing, you are effectively loading (and again, gently stressing) your spine, hips, and leg bones.
10. Balanced blood sugar levels
People with moderate levels of muscle strength have a 32% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with low levels of muscle strength, according to an April 2019 study inProceedings of the Mayo Clinic.
Additionally, in people with diabetes, strength training is an effective way to manage blood sugar and reduce the risk of complications.
Researchers believe resistance training has this effect by helping to regulate body composition and sensitivity to insulin, the sugar-regulating hormone, according to a November 2016 position statement inDiabetic treatments.
While cardio has long had all the glory for heart health, there is a growing body of research showing that resistance training deserves it, too.
For example, in a January 2017 search inMedicine and science in sport and exercise,Cis women who reported weight training had a 17% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who reported never weight training.
Together, all of these health benefits of strength training can add up to a longer life and a better quality of life.
Research confirms this. For example, a study from June 2016 inPreventive medecineWe found that strength training twice a week reduced the risk of all-cause mortality. The researchers followed older people for 15 years and found that those who strength training at least twice a week were 46% less likely to die during that time.