Strength training should be an integral part of your workout routine if you want to become healthy and fitter overall. However, even if your ultimate goal isn’t to maximize your muscle power, adding strength –training to your daily routine can add a plethora of benefits to your overall health and lifestyle.
In fact, strength and resistance training is a vital element of making any progress towards your health goals.
Micheal Rebold, director of integrative exercises at Hiram College in Ohio, explains, “A lot of people believe that if they don't want to look like a bodybuilder, they shouldn't perform resistance training. So the only form of exercise they do is aerobic – and then they wonder why they are having trouble making significant improvements in their health.”
If you are scared of getting into strength training because you don’t want to bulk up, then you have nothing to worry about. Building muscles does not happen by accident; it requires an intense and specialized training and nutrition.
Although you may already be aware of some of the physical benefits of strength training, to make it easier for you, we have summarized some ways in which it can enhance your overall quality of life.
Reduction in Abdominal Fat
Any kind of exercise or movement can help burn excess calories off. However, strength training helps increase lean muscle mass in the body, stimulating the metabolism. It is a major determiner of the basal metabolic rate (the number of calories required by the body on a daily basis to sustain physiologic functions without much activity.)
After conducting research with 10,500 men, a published Harvard study in 2014 found that strength training is more effective than cardiovascular exercise in the prevention of abdominal fat (also known as visceral fat).
Lower Risk of Injury
When a muscle is strong, it can improve your overall movement, balance, coordination and injury prevention. But when a muscle is weak, it can put more stress on the connecting tendons, which can cause tendonitis.
Additionally, the number and diameter of collagen fibrils in tendons are increased with regular strength training, increasing tendon strength and helping prevent injury.
Improved Mobility and Flexibility
If you think that the only way to improve your flexibility is through yoga and stretching routines, you will need to change your perspective. A study from the 2006 North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy suggests that eccentric strength training has some of the biggest benefits for flexibility; one of which may be that it can improve hamstring flexibility twice as effectively as static stretching. Any exercises that emphasize muscle lengthening rather than shortening are grouped as eccentric exercises.
A proper strength training routine also requires you to take your joints through their full range of motion, as well as, increasing your maximum range of motion over time. Mobility is important for the overall function, fitness and quality of your life, and strength training can help improve it significantly.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Abdominal fat usually sits in and around the vital organs, including the heart. Hence, reducing or preventing excess abdominal fat can contribute significantly to heart health. Since strength training is a great way to reduce abdominal fat, it automatically improves heart health as well.
However, there are direct effects of strength training on the heart as well. A 2013 research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows that young men who maintain a regular strength training schedule have better functioning HDL, or good cholesterol, as compared to those who don’t pump iron.
Improved Mental Health
Do you remember feeling inexplicably happy after a sweaty workout session? You’re exhausted, but you just feel good for some reason. There is a reason for that as exercise triggers endorphins that instantly boost your mood.
However, the benefits go much deeper than that. Strength training has also shown to improve the symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety. It provides a controlled, predictable environment where you can overcome obstacles. The small yet meaningful improvements that one makes with consistent training can increase mental resilience. All of these can contribute to improving your overall mental health. Controlled Levels of Blood Sugar
Anyone who suffers from Type 2 diabetes should incorporate strength training into their routine as soon as possible. According to the 2013 review published in the journal BioMed Research International, not only does strength training build muscles, but it also improves the muscle’s ability to absorb glucose, or blood sugar.
There are these transporters that pick up glucose from the blood and deliver it to the muscle cell. Their function is improved due to strength training, as it allows them to pick up a larger amount of glucose to the muscles from the blood, which decreases the levels of blood sugar.
Elevated Confidence and Body Image
It is natural that you will see improvements in the physique of your body as you incorporate strength training in your lifestyle, especially if you have been rather sedentary previously. However, consistent strength training can improve how you perceive your body image.
Since strength training improves your energy levels, mood, mental health and gives you a feeling of accomplishment, aside from improving your physical health, it is likely that it will improve your body image and boost your confidence.
Although strength training is usually beneficial for most people, it is still better to consult your doctor before starting a new routine, especially if you are already treated for any medical issue. If you are new to strength training, hire a trainer or join a class to ensure that things don’t go wrong.