Love or hate the gym, there are some distinct health benefits to the weight lifting mentality of strength training. And in truth, you don’t need to attend a sweat filled, lycra-clad gymnasium to improve your muscle strength.
So why would you take up strength training if you’re not already an avid fan? That’s an important question. First, let’s look at what it is and then we’ll talk about the health transforming benefits it can give.
As Medical-Dictionary states, strength training is:
Yes, as the name suggests, its focus is on improving the strength and function of your muscles.
The benefits are varied, so let’s talk about some of the most important ones now.
Boost your metabolism
As we age our metabolism tends to drop, which is one of the reasons why we can gain weight more easily. Middle aged spread, anyone?
In the article Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men, researchers found those following a 16-week heavy resistance training program increased their strength by a whopping 40%! The participants also experienced a significant increase in their resting metabolic rate, and an accompanying drop in body fat.
Improved bone strength
As both men and women age, our bones can weaken, leading to fracture, pain and ultimately, the potential of death. Yet strength training has been shown to be both safe and effective at increasing bone density.
In my first degree, my research project was conducted with a PhD candidate, looking into strength training and calcium supplementation in post-menopausal women. While the mainstream believed that once your bone density was gone it was gone for good, this is not what we found.
Other studies support this finding as well. In fact, a study by Watson and his research team showed that as little as two 30-minute high-intensity and impact training sessions per week were sufficient to improve bone strength indicators, with the nice side benefit of concurrent improvement in functional performance, like getting up from a seat and increased leg and back strength.
Better blood sugar control
Healthy blood sugar balance is important to reduce the risk, and control the severity, of Diabetes, heart disease and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, to name but a few linked health challenges.
In a study published in the journal, Metabolism, Smutok and team found that strength training reduced both blood sugar and insulin levels following the ingestion of glucose.
This is key, and with greater numbers of people suffering – and expected to suffer – at the hands of high blood sugar related illnesses, strength training offers hope for both prevention and recovery.
With age and certain health challenges, balance can become an issue. And while poor balance is a challenge in itself, the falls that accompany this can bring severe complications. Fractures, sprains, bruises and pain.
Strength training offers a variety of benefits for those needing to improve their balance. Including:
– An improvement in the recruitment and efficiency of available muscles. This may lead to a faster response when a wobble is initiated, allowing the body to stabilize itself before toppling over
– An improved equilibrium, by producing positive changes in the musculoskeletal control system
– Improved functional balance directly resulting in reduced falls
… One of the most popular benefits of strength training?
It just helps us feel good!
The release of endorphins as we strain and push, the focus involved in lifting well and safely, the often improved energy levels that accompany this type of exercise, the sense of achievement as our body changes positively and the feeling of control it can bring us are valuable.
Strength training is an exercise that, with professional advice, is suitable for varied ages, body sizes and genders and offers benefits that extend from the obvious and reach throughout of body and our mind.