Strength training is unbelievably good for you. In fact I actually believe that every single person should be doing some form of resistance or strength training as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Now that doesn’t mean you have to rush out, join a gym and lift big heavy weights. Strength training comes in many forms including body weight exercises like push ups or pull ups, using resistance bands, reformer pilates, calisthenics, some forms of yoga and of course weight training using dumbbells and barbells.
Unfortunately I think a lot of people (especially women) associate strength training with getting bulky and having big muscles. This is absolutely not the case and it’s a mindset that I think needs to shift. Why?
Firstly one of the obvious benefits; Aesthetics (yep its makes you look good) and while many people choose strength training purely for this reason from a health perspective the benefits extend far beyond this.
Strength training builds lean muscle. Lean muscle requires more energy to maintain which increases the body’s metabolic rate. Put simply more lean muscle means you will burn more calories at rest. Weight management is a simple calories in vs calories out formula so the more you burn the better. This in turn assists with the management and prevention of obesity which can be a precursor for cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
Improved cardiovascular health
Strength training can aid in reducing many cardiovascular related diseases including hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol. Studies have shown a correlation between strength training 2-3 x per week and a reduction in blood pressure and levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ in blood levels (while the ‘good’ cholesterol levels went up!) Cardiovascular health is very large and rather complicated topic but I think the take home message is quite simple; strength training is really really good for your heart!
Mental health benefits
Yep that's right, strength training can do wonders for your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. There is so much research being done in this field at the moment and it’s all been very positive so far. Benefits include improved cognitive function, higher self esteem and a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
It's good for your bones
Strong bodies have strong bones! The older population, menopausal and post menopausal women are considered the higher risk groups when it comes to having weaker bones but I think it’s important for all generations to think about. Bone strength is reflected on ones bone mineral density (BMD). A low BMD is known as osteoporosis or osteopenia and can greatly increase the risk of incidental fractures. Some studies have suggested that adults who do not participate in any strength based training could see a reduction in BMD of 3% every year, while those who incorporated some strength training saw the reverse effects.
Improvements in physical function
Think balance, proprioception, agility and co-ordination. Aspects of our physical performance that we may not necessarily think about training but are all very important when it comes to injury prevention and the efficient functioning of the human body. Strength training improves all of the above.
It’s good for your heart, good for your mind, good for your bones and good for your waistline. You shouldn’t need much more convincing than that to go out and get strong.