Strength training had a long journey – from the intense regime reserved for professional bodybuilders to a routine that any random person could follow. But even after all these years, people still seem to hold many reservations about strength training. Fears of getting injured, getting bulky, or simply not wanting to take the effort – the excuses are unending.
But strength training or resistance training is much more than what the myths propagate. It allows people who build muscles, to increase their strength, and replace their body fat with lean muscles. But even beyond the usual bodybuilding, strength training has a myriad of health benefits. These benefits not only help you be healthier but also significantly increase your quality of life in the long run.
10 Reasons To Try Strength Training
Here are 10 reasons why you should ditch the myths and try strength training.
Controls Blood Sugar Levels
Besides building muscles, strength training can be a blessing for people suffering from Type-2 Diabetes. Diabetics have the primary struggle of controlling the level of sugar in their blood. While medications and diet regimens can help a great deal in reducing blood sugar levels, they might not always be enough. Furthermore, the body becomes habitual to medicines after a while (thus having to increase the dosages) and the strict diet can make you lose a lot of food fun in your life.
However, recent studies have found that resistance training can be a boon for type-2 diabetics. Muscle buildings improve the efficiency of muscles in many ways, including those of the ‘transporter’ cells within the muscles. These cells are responsible for picking the sugar from the blood and transporting it to the muscle cells for consumption. Effectively, this reduces the sugar in the blood and thus keeps your diabetes in check – without relying too much on medicines and diets.
Improved Mental Fortitude
Like many other things, there is also a misconception that cardio is better than strength training in building mental strength. Whenever we imagine someone overcoming their physical limits and not giving up even when exhausted, we usually visualize a marathon runner or swimmer, or cyclist. And you are not wrong – these exercises definitely help people in overcoming their mental roadblocks and become more resilient. But so does strength training.
It is well-known that the endorphins produced during any kind of physical exercise make you feel better and more confident. As such, strength training is an excellent medium for improving your mood in a quick burst. But there are many psychological benefits in the long term too. Strength training is known to increase resilience and mental endurance in trainers. Some studies have also found that working with less-than-peak weights can help people in controlling anxiety.
Your metabolism plays a vital role in how much weight you gain or lose. Most people fail to lose weight even after strenuous cardio and HIIT because their body has very low metabolism. Low metabolism means that your body consumes calories at a much lower rate, so even a reduced calorie intake can cause calories excess and thus weight gain. However, strength training can help you with that.
It is now widely observed that after any intense workout session – including strength training – your body enters a phase known as “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption”. When you train, your body is doing a lot more work than it usually does, so your body also burns calories much faster to keep providing you with energy. But while you stop with the clock, your body doesn’t know that. So, it continues burning calories at a faster rate for a long time – maybe hours – after you have returned from the gym.
When you exercise regularly and keep an active lifestyle, your body raises your BMR. Basal Metabolic Rate is how many calories your body would burn when you are doing absolutely no physical activity. BMR is considered a good measure of metabolism. Some studies have also linked increased BMR with the proportion of lean muscles in the body. So, effectively, regular strength training increases your BMR and thus your metabolism, allowing you to burn calories faster and avoid gaining easy weight.
Let’s get to the facts – we all love to feel beautiful. It is not a superficial trait either; physical appearance is a vital factor through which humans have valued themselves since humanity began. Many people run after cosmetics and surgeries to be beautiful, while others look for external accessories like fashion or luxury assets. But perhaps no method is as wholesome as exercise.
Strength workouts help us gain muscles, tone our muscle definition, and get the kind of look we want – whether bulky or lean. As such, it helps improve our image in front of others and thus get some vital self-confidence. But the benefits are not so superficial as this; strength training allows you to be self-confident without the approval of others.
Research has shown that people who engaged in strength training started viewing their bodies in a much better light. Even when they did not (yet) have the body they desired, they still saw a boost in self-confidence. It was concluded that when people engage in intense strength training, they become much more aware of their bodies and what they can achieve. As such, they start taking a kind of pride in it that was perhaps missing until then.
Cuts Abdominal Fat
Abdominal fat has been the biggest pain point for anyone who has struggled with obesity. The abdomen is usually the first location for fat, and usually, the last one to go. Too many people give up on workouts because, despite the intense training, their belly fat just wouldn’t bulge. It is also one of the reasons why overweight people don’t prefer strength training, as they believe that it won’t help them burn calories as efficiently as cardio or HIIT.
However, as mentioned above, strength exercise increases the BMR and allows the body to burn calories faster, even in a state of rest. Some studies have also found that in combination with a good diet, strength training allows the body to go into calorie deficit much more quickly and hence start cutting fat reserves, including in the abdomen. This means that getting those abs won’t be far when you lift weight regularly.
Improved Cardiac Health
Cardiac health is a very important factor in measuring the overall health of the body. Poor lifestyle – including junk diet and sedentary routine – are the major contributors to poor cardiac health. In today’s society, cardiac issues are becoming more and more common. Jobs require little physical activity and the abundance of fast food has brought forward an epidemic of cardiac issues. In such times, taking care of the heart becomes more important than ever. Strength training could be a major help in this regard.
The abdominal fat does more harm than just making you look obese; it can also increase the risk of cardiac issues. The abdominal fat is located in a section of the body that contains many of your vital organs like the liver, lungs, and heart. Studies have linked high abdominal fat (also known as visceral fat) with cardiac issues like cardiac arrest and blockages. As mentioned previously, strength exercises help in cutting the abdominal fat in the body and reduce the chances of cardiac issues.
Beyond abdominal fat, strength training undoubtedly has other benefits for the heart. It can increase the levels of HDL (known as good cholesterol) and make your heart better accustomed to intense physical training.
It has been long misunderstood that cardio is for mobility and flexibility, while resistance training is just for strength. However, turns out, that it is nothing more than just bro-science. Strength training can have long-term benefits for your mobility and flexibility.
While not a primary feature of strength exercise routines, many exercises allow full range of motion (ROM) of the body. Exercises like squats, pull-ups, and crunches focus on lengthening the muscles, while also giving a complete ROM to the body. Muscles at the joints are particularly vulnerable to failure, and such exercises help in strengthening them. As a result, people who do regular resistance training can have great mobility and flexibility.
Reduces Chances of Injury
One of the most prevalent fears of not doing strength exercises is the risk of injuries. The fears are not completely unfounded. Ego-lifting (where you lift much more than your body is currently capable of) and the wrong form can cause some serious injuries to the body. But all such issues could be mitigated with the right guidance from a coach. On the other hand, strength training can actually reduce your chances of injuries compared to someone who never goes to the gym.
As mentioned in the previous point, some exercises allow you to have a complete ROM of various joints, which improves your mobility and flexibility. This significantly reduces the chances of tearing a muscle due to sudden movement. In general, muscle building increases the density of the muscles and hence makes it harder for them to tear off at sudden stress.
Exercises that focus on the core, glutes, and hamstrings also help reduce the load off your back, thus reducing the chances of very common lower back injuries. Another study found that injury due to falling – either due to sudden failure of the joints or numbing of the muscles – is very common in adults aged above 60. However, this number was significantly lower in adults who engaged in some form of resistance training. In simple words – the pain you tolerate in the gym helps you avoid the pain from getting injuries.
Increased Brain Function
“Brains, not brawns” have been a common phrase for a long time. The assumption was that you could either be strong or smart. But recent studies have shown that it could actually be the opposite. “Brains, because brawns”.
The most significant impact of resistance training on intelligence is on older people. As we grow older, both our physical and cognitive abilities see a decline. However, a 2016 study found out that people above 55 who underwent some form of strength training at least twice per week scored much better score in cognitive abilities than their non-training counterparts.
The study concluded that the most probable cause behind this was blood flow. Resistance training promotes the flow of blood throughout the body, including the brain.
With optimal blood supply, the brain can perform quite well despite the cellular degeneration that comes with age. So it seems lifting weights could be your ticket to stay sharp in your old age.
Longer and Better Life
All of the above reasons come together to form a simple conclusion: a better quality of life. Many people try to measure the quality of life with simple metrics like BMI, but it is actually much more complex. A lot of factors affect how good our life is. Fortunately, the above points prove how strength training could be beneficial in a lot of them.
Strength training improves our muscle and bone density, thus helping reduce the rapid degeneration of bones and muscles that occur with old age. It also reduces the risk of conditions such as cardiac issues, joint pains, and other injuries. Strength training also improves our cognitive abilities, our mental strength, and our overall mood. It also reduces the risk of cancer by cutting down visceral fat, which has been linked with some cancers due to the protein it produces. With the abdominal fat reduced, so goes the cancer risks.
Furthermore, studies have found that people who do resistance training have a much better average lifespan than people who don’t. Who knew a physically active lifestyle can help you live longer, right?
It’s fair to say that strength training might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But now you know the vast array of benefits that surround it. The scientifically proven benefits of resistance training trump any hesitation or “bro-science” myths you might have about it.
Let’s try to have a healthier life, one dumbbell at a time.