10 Hidden Health Benefits of Strength Training
What is Strength Training?
Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight training, is an important part of fitness regime. It involves physical exercises that are designed to improve endurance and build strength. In strength training, you move different body parts against some kind of resistance; this could be your body weight, weight machines or free weights such as dumbbells or barbells.
10 Hidden Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training provides a myriad of physical and mental health benefits for people belonging to all age groups. The workout is particularly beneficial for people dealing with health issues like arthritis, obesity or a heart condition. While some of the benefits of this exercise form are rather obvious, there are several hidden benefits of strength training workout. Let’s have a look at some of them.
1. Burns More Calories
Strength training boosts metabolism and hence burns calories. But did you know that even after wrapping up it contributes to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), more commonly known as afterburn. So as your body recovers from the exercise session and returns to a resting state, it’ll keep burning more calories due to the workout you performed. The more vigorous your workout, the longer it takes for your body to move back to the resting state and the more calories you burn.
2. Boosts Energy
Strength training raises your circulating levels of endorphins which not just helps improve your mood but gives a boost to your energy levels as well. According to researchers, the improvements in energy levels, mental health and feelings of accomplishments are the likely catalysts for a better overall body image.
3. Reduces Anxiety & Depression
There have been numerous researches and studies conducted on the anxiolytic effects of resistance training. According to Jacob Meyer, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, if the physiological adaptations that are associated with muscle growth and strength gains interact with the neurobiology of depression, it may even have greater effects on depression than aerobic training.
Brett Gordan is a former postgraduate researcher at the university of Limerick’s Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences and presently a postdoctoral fellow at Penn State studying cancer and exercise. He conducted a research on the connection between depressive symptoms and resistance training. Meyer was among the authors of this study. Published in June of 2018, it showed the results of 33 clinical trials for the effects of weight training on depression and concluded that this exercise form ‘significantly’ decreased depressive symptoms.
Another study conducted by Gordan and his colleagues published in the journal Sports Medicine concluded that resistance exercise improves the symptoms of anxiety both among healthy people and those differing from a mental or physical illness. The result was drawn through 16 studies that involved a total of 992 participants.
4. Improves Sleep
All the important restorative work of your body takes place during deep sleep. It is crucial for hormonal regulation, physical renewal and growth. Without adequate sleep, you’re likely to fall sick, gain weight, get depressed and be unable to carry out your tasks and activities to your full potential.
The key link between resistance training exercise and sleep patterns is that of healing. Good quality sleep allows the body to repair its cells and develop new tissues in order to perform better. These healing processes are governed by fluctuations in the levels of various hormones in the bloodstream. Weight training helps induce the onset of deep sleep which causes the body to release hormones that relax the muscles of the body thereby reducing inflammation and assisting in recovery.
5. Improves Diabetes
Resistance training exercises are highly recommended for diabetic patients. It is very effective in increasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR) - the number of calories one consumes while sitting. So if your calorie intake stays the same but your BMR increases, it leads to weight loss. Besides, weight training increases lean muscle mass and since it is an insulin sensitive tissue it improves your insulin sensitivity. The glucose you get from your meals is predominantly absorbed by your muscle tissue hence weight training is useful to improve elevated blood sugars following meals.
6. Protects Bone Health
One of the defining factors of a strong body is having strong bones. Any weight-bearing exercises that put strain on your bones can nudge the bone-building cells into action.
The strain comes from the tugging and pushing on the bone that occurs during strength training. Every time a muscle contracts, it pulls on the bones it is attached to. This stimulates the cells within the bones to produce structural proteins and move the minerals into the bone, resulting in denser, stronger bones.
According to a 2014 Journal of Family and Community Medicine study, strength training with squats increased femur (thigh) bone and lower spine bone mineral density by 4.9 and 2.9 percent respectively.
7. Lowers Colon Cancer Risk
Visceral fat not just increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease but can also promote the development of cancer. A study from the journal Oncogene published in the year 2017 showed that visceral fat cells produce high levels of fibroblast growth factor-2 which is a cancer triggering protein.
To study the effects of weight training on the risk of developing 10 different kinds of cancer, researchers carried out a survey in which they followed more than 215,000 adults for a period of 6-7 years. The findings of the study were published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal and according to them, people who lifted weights every week were at a 22 - 25% lower risk of colon cancer as compared to those that did not lift weights at all. The results also indicated a modest reduction in other forms of cancer.
In another research published in Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology in 2017, it was concluded that muscle mass is a strong predictor of the outcome of cancer treatment. This is because muscle wasting is among the common complications that occur during cancer treatment. Muscle wasting is associated with faster tumor progression, higher risk of chemotherapy toxicity and lower chances of survival.
8. Improves flexibility & Mobility
Strength training exercises improve flexibility both in women as well as men. The study in the journal Isokinetics and Exercise Science in 2017 reinforced this fact. Stretching exercises emphasize on muscle lengthening and urge you to push yourself. When you take your joints through their full range of motion during these exercises, you can actually increase that range of motion over a period of time.
9. Improves Attention & Comprehension
It is a proven fact that weight training improves cognition. It involves the ability of your brain to process all that is going on around you through your senses, thoughts and experiences. Studies show that one of the biggest changes found in people who started weight training was improved memory.
10. Lowers Injury Risks
A good muscle mass is pivotal for movement, balance and coordination. According to sports medicine physician Dr Adam Rivadeneyra, if a muscle is very weak, it puts more strain on the connecting tendon which can result in tendonitis. Alos, weight training increases the diameter and number of collagen fibrils in tendons which increases their strength and helps prevent injury.
Best Tools for Strength Training
You’ll find ample equipment in the gym to carry out your strength training routine. However, with the right tools you can perform an equally effective exercise session at home as well. The tools you choose to make use of depend on your fitness level and space. If you're new to weight training, a good pair of dumbbells would be a good choice to start with.
For home workouts, kettlebells are a must-have tool. This is because you can perform a vast variety of strength training exercises with them. This includes bicep curls, rows, snatches, deadlifts as well as squats. Also, unlike dumbbells, kettles force you to engage multiple muscles together.
In case you have a small space for your workout that doesn't allow much room to perform with dumbbells or kettlebells, resistance bands would make a perfect alternative. They may be small in size but they are capable of tightening and toning small as well as large muscle groups.
Using a stability exercise ball for performing core and strength training exercises can be very beneficial. It helps boost your calorie burn by engaging multiple muscle groups to keep your body steady.
Another very useful tool for strength training is the balance board. Performing bodyweight exercises such as lunges and squats on this instability device will help warm up your smaller stabilizer muscles and prime your mind-muscle connection thereby preparing you to carry out a good workout. Bodyweight exercises are ideal on a balance board as heavy loading can increase the risk of injury and make it harder to maintain form, unless you’re a pro at instability exercises.
Same is the case with stability wobble cushion balance disk. Used to strengthen body muscles and improve balance, this tool allows for more control. Made from eco-friendly materials, URBNFit’s stability wobble cushion balance disk has a non-slip grip. You can perform a variety of exercises with this product. It’s particularly beneficial for ab strength, flexibility, balance and coordination.
You don’t need to spend large amounts of money on strength training gear and clothing, especially if you’re a beginner to this form of workout. However, make sure your clothes and shoes are comfortable, neither too loose nor too tight. A good cotton t-shirt with a pair of shorts that are above your knees would be perfect. Wear shoes with a flat sole as they will keep you more balanced when performing lifts.