Strength training is often characterised as something just to build muscle, but the benefits include improved heart health, improved balance, stronger bones and weight loss.
This article will look at these benefits, using a definition of strength training as exercise designed to improve a specific muscle or set of muscles, usually using machines free weights or bodyweight and often with heavy exercises.
The basic idea behind strength training is to stimulate the muscle with contractions against heavy weights so that it faces a challenge and adapts during its rest period to become stronger. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that strength training is just about bodybuilding, whereas in reality it has benefits for everyone. From a medical point of view, it’s associated with fighting obesity and arthritis, and can improve heart health. Let’s take a deep dive into the benefits.
Get stronger and fitter
Greater strength isn’t something that should be dismissed because it can make your daily life easier, especially if you consider yourself an older adult. As we age, we naturally start to lose muscle and strength training can help prevent that. There are two types of training that you should add to your routine – isometric and isotonic. Isometric exercises involve pushing against an object that won’t move, like push ups or squats. Isotonic involves using weights to do movements, like in a bench press.
Improve bone health and muscle mass
As we get older, we slowly start to lose muscle mass and bone density but according to the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, as little as half an hour of weekly resistance and impact training can improve bone density and strength, and they also found no drawback to the training either.
Keep the weight off for good
When people look to lose weight, usually they rely on aerobic training such as jogging or cycling because it burns the calories well. However, strength training can also be beneficial because it helps to build up your resting metabolic rate. Aerobic exercises will burn more calories than strength training, in session, but if you increase your muscle mass then the number of calories you burn at rest will increase. This means that overall, the increase in passive calorie burning will help your weight loss. This found by a study in the journal ‘Obesity’ which compared strength training with aerobic exercise and found that strength training gave the best results for weight loss.
Improve your body mechanics
When you strength train, you’re exercising some of the most important but neglected muscles. These are the muscles that you use for balance, co-ordination and posture. While we see people building their biceps to be ready for the summer, the balance and co-ordination muscles are often hidden and far less obvious, but do a vital job. This is particularly beneficial in older adults because it can reduce the likelihood of a fall thanks to improved balance.
Manage a chronic disease better
Diseases like arthritis and diabetes can be difficult to manage although strength training offers a definite benefit in dealing with these conditions. This is backed by science and various studies have found that strengthening the muscles around the joints can help diminish pain in arthritis sufferers. It also helps glucose control for those with diabetes.
Boost mood and energy levels
Strength training helps you when you need it most… if your energy levels are regularly flagging, then a strength routine can help turn this around. Not only that, but a strength training session has immediate benefits as well because it releases endorphins, the chemical that improves our mood.
Boost your metabolism
The increased muscle mass from strength training helps to keep your metabolism in good shape, helping you lose weight or stay trim. In fact, the benefits aren’t just restricted to the session either because you’ll burn an increased number of calories long after the session ends. This is known as EPOC, or “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” so you’ll feel the high long after the session has ended.