Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight training, isn’t just about building muscle. The benefits of strength training are much more dynamic and complex. This type of exercise will tone and strengthen, but it will also improve heart, bone, and psychological health. It will even increase vitality, energising the body and slowing the ageing process. A consistent, moderate training programme will impact your total health, improving your quality of life in ways you never would have imagined.
Strength training involves the use of resistance in the form of free weights, resistance bands, functional trainer machines, home gyms, or medicine balls to challenge the musculoskeletal system. It can also be done without weights simply by using the weight of your own body. This, in effect, conditions and strengthens muscles and ligaments, as well as bone tissue.
Performance and Body Sculpting Benefits
Strengthening your body with weights or other resistance exercises will improve the tone, power, and agility of your muscles. You will look and feel better and be less prone to injury. With a strength training programme you will notice:
- Stronger muscles and enhanced ability to do everyday activities
- Greater flexibility and range of motion
- Improved balance
- Reduced risk of injury and extra joint protection
- Better posture as muscles and bones strengthen
- Easier weight loss with a faster metabolism
- Reduced body fat
As you build more lean muscle mass, it will also increase your metabolic rate making it easier to lose weight and stay in shape. The body will literally burn more calories while at rest. This makes it easier to burn excess fat, but also to maintain a healthy weight, which in turn will help to prevent disease and support your cardiovascular system.
Heart Health Benefits of Strength Training
Cardio exercise, activities like jogging, swimming, and cycling, have traditionally been recommended to improve cardiovascular health and prevent heart disease, but strength training is also important for heart health. This is one reason why both forms of exercise are now recommended by health professionals. The Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines suggest resistance training workouts at least twice a week in order to enjoy the health benefits.
- Lowered risk of heart disease
- Reduced blood pressure – which means less damage to artery walls
- Improved cholesterol levels
- Healthier heart rate – especially when weight training is combined with cardio exercises
- Improved circulation
- Reduced insulin levels
Training with weights supports a healthy heart and reduces the risk for disease because of the weight loss benefits of strength training. Being overweight and carrying around excess fat is related to having high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and a much higher risk for heart disease. It takes a lot of energy for the heart to pump blood through the body in a person who is overweight.
Through regular workouts, the body is able to burn fat, increase muscle mass, and the cardiovascular system is significantly improved. Blood can circulate more easily, nourishing the rest of the body, and the heart no longer has to work so hard, simply to sustain the body by circulating oxygen and nutrients via the blood.
A simple strength training routine is also a key to lowering the risk of diabetes and reducing insulin levels. High insulin levels are dangerous because they can lead to inflammation of the arteries. Inflammation and damage (from high blood pressure) put more strain on your heart. According to cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra, adding weight training to a cardio exercise programme significantly improves cardiovascular health by lowering levels of insulin and blood sugar, as well as blood pressure.
Bone and Joint Health
Of course resistance exercises strengthen muscles, but they strengthen bones as well and improve bone and joint function. Through putting resistance on bone, exercise actually triggers the formation of new bone. This means with regular weight training:
- The risk for osteoporosis decreases – this benefit is particular beneficial as the body ages
- Bones become stronger and density increases as resistance encourages new formation
- Bone and joint function improves as both bone and ligament tissue strengthens
It was once believed that weaker bones and joints were an inevitable part of ageing. It is now known that this is not true at all. Physical inactivity will over time lead to a decrease in bone tissue. On the other hand, by maintaining an active lifestyle, incorporating strength and cardio exercise, bone mass can increase and the process of deterioration can be reversed. The Better Health Channel of Victoria points out that strength training can reverse bone loss, even in older people. In fact, weight training is highly recommended for all adults, young and old.
Benefits for Psychological Well-Being
Strength training has proven to be beneficial for mind and body. There are a range of important psychological benefits including:
- Reduced stress – regular exercise is a known stress reducer
- Depression relief with the healthy release of endorphins after exercise
- Healthier sleep patterns – studies show a significant reduction of sleep apnoea, especially after 8 to 10 weeks of training
- Lessened anxiety – moderate intensity resistance training has proven to have more anxiety reducing benefits than high intensity training
- Improved memory, especially for older adults
- Better self-esteem – with a better body image confidence naturally rises
Some researchers believe that strength training may improve the function of the body’s central nervous system by encouraging new brain cell generation and increasing the release of neurotransmitters. Improved circulation as new brain blood vessels are formed may also be behind the psychological benefits.
Strength Training for Anti-Ageing
Ageing is a process that we all face, and in fact are constantly doing. Thinking of ageing as a gradual process of disintegration is limiting and false. By remaining active throughout our lives, we can maintain muscle mass, strong bones and a healthy heart. We can also keep our energy levels high and be completely capable of caring for ourselves, even in old age.
The key is to keep moving. Cardio exercise is of course important, but strength training is just as essential, if not more so. With resistance exercises muscle, ligaments, and bones become healthier and stronger – regardless of our age. With a regular programme, something as simple as two sessions per week, you can increase physical performance, have plenty of energy to accomplish goals, and enjoy a sharp memory and high cognitive ability, even as you age.
Resistance training isn’t just about looking great and building muscles. It is about so much more – it is about your total health. The benefits of strength training have been consistently proven in studies, supporting the connection between exercise and well-being. Making it a part of your life will lead to countless benefits. Avoiding it will lead to a variety of conditions that will only diminish your health, and quality of life: a slower metabolism, trouble maintaining a healthy weight, increased risk for disease, less energy, decreased bone density and other unpleasant drawbacks.
Strength training is an essential part of taking care of your body and mind. Start with a simple training programme that you can stick to. Do it regularly and enjoy all the amazing, lifelong benefits of strength training, as well as the satisfaction of doing something positive for your well-being.
To learn more about combining strength training into your workout routine, why not ask the friendly experts at Orbit Fitness by phone on 1300 13 42 13 or email today.