Strength training—also called weight training or resistance training—isn’t just good for your muscles. It provides a multitude of benefits for your whole body, including improved heart health and balance, stronger bones, weight loss, and improved mental well-being.
Incorporating strength training into your weekly workout or routine couldn’t be easier. You don’t need a gym or expensive weights. Push-ups, planks, squatting on a chair or any other exercise that uses your own body weight as resistance will do.
Using external resistance in the form of free-weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and even your own body weight, strength training exercises apply a load/overload to a specific muscle or muscle group, and force the muscles to adapt and grow stronger.
And, for those who are aging—and, let’s be honest, who isn’t?—regular strength training can help prevent sarcopenia, the gradual and natural loss of lean muscle mass.
In its new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends strength training for all ages. For children/adolescents 6 to 17 years old, HHS recommends strength training be incorporated into their recommendation for 60 minutes of physical activity daily, at least 3 days/week. In adults, moderate-to-intense strength training that targets all muscle groups is recommended 2 days/week.
Besides providing cardiovascular benefits and preserving muscle mass, as all exercise does, strength training can provide surprisingly broad health benefits. Let’s take a look.
Burns more calories. Because it boosts your metabolism, strength training burns calories. But even after wrapping up your strength-training workout, did you know that it contributes to something known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)—more commonly known as “afterburn”? As your body recovers from your workout and moves back to a resting state, it will keep burning more calories because of your workout. The more intense your workout, the longer it takes for your body to return to resting state, and the more calories you will burn.
Boosts energy and mood. Like all exercise, strength training raises your circulating levels of endorphins, which serve to improve not only your mood, but gives you an increase in your energy level as well.
Reduces anxiety. Researchers have documented the anxiolytic effects of resistance training as well, with low-to-moderate intensity training (less than 70% of one repetition maximum) effecting the most consistent and largest decreases in anxiety.
They concluded: “Importantly, anxiolytic effects have been observed across a diverse range of populations and dependent measures. These findings provide support for the use of resistance exercise in the clinical management of anxiety.”