Besides the well-touted (and frequently Instagrammed) benefit of adding tone and definition to your muscles, how does strength training help? Here are just a few of the many ways:
1. Strength Training Makes You Stronger and Fitter
This benefit is the obvious one, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. “Muscle strength is crucial in making it easier to do the things you need to do on a day-to-day basis,” Pire says — especially as we get older and naturally start to lose muscle.
Strength training is also called resistance training because it involves strengthening and toning your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force. According to the Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine, there are two types of resistance training.
Isometric resistance involves contracting your muscles against a nonmoving object, such as against the floor in a pushup.
Isotonic strength training involves contracting your muscles through a range of motion, as in weight lifting.
2. Strength Training Protects Bone Health and Muscle Mass
At around age 30 we start losing as much as 3 to 5 percent of lean muscle mass per decade thanks to aging, notes Harvard Health Publishing.
According to a study published in October 2017 in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, just 30 minutes twice a week of high intensity resistance and impact training was shown to improve functional performance, as well as bone density, structure, and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass — and it had no negative effects.
Likewise, the HHS physical activity guidelines note that, for everyone, muscle strengthening activities help preserve or increase muscle mass, strength, and power, which are essential for bone, joint, and muscle health as we age.
3. Strength Training Helps Your Body Burn Calories Efficiently
All exercise helps boost your metabolism (the rate your resting body burns calories throughout the day).
With both aerobic activity and strength training, your body continues to burn calories after strength training as it returns to its more restful state (in terms of energy exerted). It’s a process called “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,” according to the American Council on Exercise.
But when you do strength, weight, or resistance training, your body demands more energy based on how much energy you’re exerting (meaning the tougher you’re working, the more energy is demanded). So you can amplify this effect depending on the amount of energy you put into the workout. That means more calories burned during the workout, and more calories burned after the workout, too, while your body is recovering to a resting state.
4. Strength Training Helps Keep the Weight off for Good
Because strength training boosts excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, it can also help exercisers boost weight loss more than if you were to just do aerobic exercise alone, Pire says. “[Resistance or strengthening exercise] keeps your metabolism active after exercising, much longer than after an aerobic workout.”
A study published in the journal Obesity in November 2017 found that, compared with dieters who didn’t exercise and those who did only aerobic exercise, dieters who did strength training exercises four times a week for 18 months lost the most fat (about 18 pounds, compared with 10 pounds for nonexercisers and 16 pounds for aerobic exercisers).right up arrow.
You may even be able to further reduce body fat specifically when strength training is combined with reducing calories through diet. People who followed a combined full-body resistance training and diet over the course of four months reduced their fat mass while improving lean muscle mass better than either resistance training or dieting alone, concluded a small study published in January 2018 in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
5. Strength Training Helps You Develop Better Body Mechanics
Strength training also benefits your balance, coordination, and posture, according to past research
One review, published in Aging Clinical and Experiment
Balance is dependent on the strength of the muscles that keep you on your feet,” Pire notes. “The stronger those muscles, the better your balance.”
6. Strength Training Can Help With Chronic Disease Management
Studies have documented that strength training can also help ease symptoms in people with many chronic conditions, including neuromuscular disorders, HIV, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and some cancers, among others.right up arrow For the more than 30 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, strength training along with other healthy lifestyle changes can help improve glucose control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a study published in June 2017 in Diabetes Therapy.right up arrowright up arrow
And research published in 2019 in Frontiers in Psychology suggested regular resistance training can also help prevent chronic mobility problems, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.right up arrow
7. Strength Training Boosts Energy Levels and Improves Your Mood
Strength training has been found to be a legitimate treatment option (or add-on treatment) to quell symptoms of depression, according to a meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials published in JAMA Psychiatry in June 2018
“All exercise boosts mood because it increases endorphins,” Pire says. But for strength training, additional research that’s looked at neurochemical and neuromuscular responses to such workouts offers further evidence it has a positive effect on the brain, he adds.
And there’s evidence strength training may help you sleep better, too, according to a study published in the January–February 2019 issue of Brazilian Journal of Psychology.
8. Strength Training Has Cardiovascular Health Benefits
Along with aerobic exercise, muscle-strengthening activities helps improve blood pressure and reduce risk of hypertension and heart disease, according to HHS
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