Whether you are looking to lose excess fat, increase your strength/stamina, boost your fitness levels or even, as it turns out, slow down the aging process… resistance training should be high on your list of priorities.
In this article we take a look at some of the main health benefits of resistance training.
The term resistance training basically means anything in which there is an opposing force to the activity you are performing. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a curl, push up, squat or something else.
It also doesn’t matter what provides this opposing force. Weight training and bodyweight exercises are both forms of resistance training.
So, with that out of the way, here are some of the main reasons you should seriously consider starting a resistance training program… if you’re not already doing so:
Resistance training has numerous benefits for your heart. A few of the most important examples include (but are certainly not limited to):
- reducing risk of heart attack and stroke
- improving your cholesterol profile, including lowering your LDL cholesterol and raising your HDL cholesterol
- lowering blood pressure
- improving coronary blood flow
These reasons alone are as good as any to start lifting weights. However, we’ve only just scratched the surface of all the potential benefits resistance training will bring you…
Lowers the risk of diabetes
A second major benefit of resistance training is that it lowers your risk of developing diabetes mellitus.
Do you have a family history of diabetes or have you been diagnosed with pre-diabetes? Weight training is one of the most important ways in which you can prevent and treat this disease.
The National Institute of Health found that weight training reduces your risk of diabetes by a whopping 34 percent.
Diabetes is a problem either of insulin production or insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, which is what occurs in type 2 diabetes, is far more common.
Weight training can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, help reduce your disease burden, reduce the amount of medications you need and potentially even reverse the disease entirely!
Improves athletic performance & reduces risk of injury
Many studies have investigated the benefits of resistance training on athletic performance. This includes casual sports, professional sports and even seemingly unrelated activities like running, swimming or bicycling.
These studies show that weight training improves your performance virtually across the board.
Resistance training is also shown to reduce the risk of sports related injuries, especially to high-risk joints such as ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. It is also protective of your back, assuming that you lift weight safely and with good form.
Live longer and age slower
It’s not news these days that exercise is good for you… and for multitude of reasons. More and more research is exploring the finer points of the health benefits of exercise, including living longer and slowing down the aging proces.
Lean skeletal muscle is associated with a longer lifespan. Studies on both animals and humans have shown that a decline or decrease in skeletal muscle is associated with a shorter life span.
Steve Holman, creator of Old School New Body, that muscle is the key to looking and feeling younger. This is just as true for women as it is for men.
In his article “5 Steps to Look 10 Years Younger” he explains why resistance training is so important to prevent losing lean muscle mass and also preventing all the health risks that come with it.
So, to put it another way… the greater your muscle mass (within reason) the less your risk of death!
You sleep better
Exercise is associated with better and healthier sleep. In modern societies we often find ourselves turning to medication to help improve the quality of our sleep. This is especially true for folks who work odd hours or have difficulty sleeping in general.
Research is mounting that suggests exercise improves sleep quality. Even though more research is needed to study the direct impact of exercise on the different stages of sleep, such as REM sleep, the trend is clear… exercise – including lifting weights – is associated with improved sleep.
Boosts your metabolism
Your basal metabolic rate is a way of describing number of calories your body burns in a 24-hour period if you don’t do anything at all during that time frame. Essentially it describes all the calories your body needs to keep functioning at rest.
Weight lifting and increasing your skeletal muscle mass directly increases your whole body metabolism as well as your basal metabolic rate. This is why athletes have to eat more food than the average person. Their bodies demand more calories to maintain themselves.
Strength training and weight lifting are associated with weight loss and a reduction in total body fat. Keep in mind though that muscle is four times as dense as fat, so you may actually gain a few pounds as you begin your strength training journey.
That is why a scale is the worst instrument to measure your progress… unless it also measures your body composition (fat/muscle ratio).
Even if your not losing weight, you probably will be reducing the percentage of total body fat. This reduction of body fat is associated with a reduction in the risk of major diseases such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
Increases bone density
Osteoporosis is a disease of brittle bones that most people associate with little old ladies. The truth is weaker bones and decreased bone mineral mineral density is a normal part of the aging process.
Our body morphology changes as we get older. This includes the thinning of our bones, regardless of gender or age.
One of the primary prevention methods and treatments for osteoporosis and it’s precursor osteopenia is resistance based training! By increasing the stress load on our joints weights you’re forcing the bones to get stronger, thereby reducing the risk of fractures as you get older.
Improves balance and mobility
Besides strengthening your bones resistance training can actually improve your overall balance and flexibility. An Australian study found that strength and balance training reduce the risk of falls in the elderly and other high-risk individuals.
Resistance training also improves and maintains functional capacity. In other words, it helps you stay mobile and functional as you age.
Breaking bones is a major cause of disease and death in the elderly. Reducing the risk of falling is a major focus of geriatric medicine. The increased strength and bone density that are the result of regular resistance training are one of the best ways to decrease this risk.
Psychological & neurological benefits
There are many known (but often underappreciated) psychological benefits to exercise. These are extremely important to an individual’s quality of life.
Various studies have shown that strength training:
- reduces the risk of depression and suicide
- helps reduce stress
- improves self-esteem and body image
- increases social activity
- improves your mood
- reduces the risk of memory loss and staves off the development of dementia
Improves stamina and productivity
Increased skeletal muscle is associated with a reduction in fatigue and improvement in total stamina. While it is true that you may find yourself exhausted immediately after your workout, this is transient and it resolves with nutrition and sleep.
However, weight training has been shown to increase your body stamina on a day-to-day basis and allows you to be more productive during the day.
Strength/resistance training has a tremendous amount of benefits, both mental and physical, that can substantially improve both your fitness levels and your quality of life. It’s also one of the keys to maintaining mobility and staying functional as you age. Not only can it help you feel younger but it can actually make you look younger as well.
You don’t need to dead lift 500 pounds or have a physique like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to enjoy these benefits. Most, if not all of this research surrounding the health benefits of resistance training involves adults of average build who complete modest training programs.
The moderate weight/high fatigue resistance training taught in the F4X protocol is a great place to start, especially for older adults who haven’t done any type of resistance training for a while.
Don’t feel like lifting weights? Try the 15-20 minute bodyweight workouts taught in the Curveball Effect program. Or you can develop your own workouts using some of the many bodyweight exercises that are available.