Resistance training, also known as weightlifting or strength training, is a form of exercise that involves using weights or other forms of resistance to challenge and strengthen muscles. While resistance training has long been associated with building muscle and improving body composition, it has also been shown to have numerous other benefits for overall health and well-being. In this entry, we will explore 10 surprising reasons why individuals should consider adding gym sessions to their exercise routine.
Benefits of Weightlifting
1. Improved Body Composition
Not surprising, one of the most common reasons for starting a weightlifting routine is to improve one's body composition and appearance. Resistance training can help build muscle, leading to a more toned and defined look. What is surprising, though, is that as muscle mass increases, so does the body's resting metabolic rate, meaning that an individual will burn more calories even when not actively exercising (Ferraro et al., 2012).
2. Increased Strength and Functionality
In addition to improving physical appearance, weightlifting can also lead to increased strength and functionality. As muscles become stronger, everyday tasks such as carrying groceries or playing sports can become easier. Resistance training has also been shown to improve balance and coordination, making it a valuable form of exercise for older adults looking to reduce the risk of falls (Gómez-Cabello et al., 2013).
3. Improved Mental Health
The benefits of weightlifting go beyond just physical improvements. Resistance training has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health as well. Exercise in general has been linked to reduced feelings of anxiety and depression (Babyak et al., 2000), and weightlifting may be particularly effective in this regard due to the challenge it presents and the sense of accomplishment that comes with lifting heavier weights.
4. Improved Cognitive Function
In a meta-analytic study published in Psychological Science, researchers found that resistance training improved cognitive function. The gathered data particularly showed improvements in the areas of memory, concentration, and processing speed while also suggesting that resistance training may help to delay the onset of age-related cognitive decline (Colcombe & Kramer, 2003).
5. Increased Bone Density
As we age, our bone density naturally decreases, which can lead to an increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Resistance training has been shown to increase bone density, particularly in the spine and hips, reducing the risk of these conditions (Kohrt et al., 2004).
6. Improved Quality of Sleep
There is a strong link between physical activity and improved sleep quality, and resistance training can be an effective form of exercise to improve sleep. Research has shown that regular physical activity, including resistance training, can improve sleep quality and help to reduce the severity of insomnia and other sleep disorders (Saremi et al., 2014).
7. Improved Cardiovascular Health
While resistance training is often associated with building muscle, it can also have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. Resistance training has been shown to improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels (Kohrt et al., 2004). Additionally, a study by Kemmler et al. (2013) found that a combination of weightlifting and cardio was more effective at improving markers of cardiovascular health than cardio alone.
8. Improved Insulin Sensitivity
resistance training has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which means that the body's cells are more responsive to insulin and are better able to regulate blood sugar levels (Weigle et al., 2005). This can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and can also help improve blood sugar control in individuals who already have the condition.
9. Increased Self-Confidence
Regular exercise, including resistance training, can lead to an improvement in physical appearance, which can lead to increased self-confidence (Taylor et al., 2014). It can also be a source of accomplishment and personal fulfillment, which can contribute to overall self-esteem (Taylor et al., 2014).
10. Increased Longevity
In addition to all of the previously mentioned benefits, resistance training has also been linked to increased longevity. A study by Phillips et al. (2015) found that resistance training was associated with a 23% reduction in risk of all-cause mortality in older adults. Another study by Liu et al. (2015) found that weightlifting was associated with a 20% reduction in risk of death from cancer and a 30% reduction in risk of death from heart disease.
In conclusion, resistance training can provide numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. From improved body composition and increased strength and functionality, to reduced risk of falls and improved cardiovascular health, the benefits of resistance training are vast. Additionally, resistance training has been linked to increased longevity, making it an important consideration for those looking to maintain optimal health as they age. As with any form of exercise, it is important to approach weightlifting with caution and to listen to the body's limits. However, for those looking to improve their overall health and well-being, incorporating resistance training into their exercise routine is a valuable consideration.
Babyak, M., Blumenthal, J., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Doraiswamy, M., Moore, K., … Krishnan, K. (2000). Exercise treatment for major depression: Maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5), 633-638.
Colcombe, S., & Kramer, A. F. (2003). Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study. Psychological Science, 14(2), 125-130..
Ferraro, R., Moore, D., & Azevedo, J. (2012). The impact of resistance training on resting metabolic rate: A systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2293-2307.
Gómez-Cabello, A., Heredia-Muñoz, J., González-Agüero, A., Casajús, J. A., & Ortega, F. B. (2013). The effect of strength training on balance and falls in older people: A systematic review. Age and Ageing, 42(6), 673-679.
Kemmler, W., von Stengel, S., Engelke, K., Haber, P., & Kalender, W. A. (2013). The combination of high-intensity strength and endurance training improves insulin sensitivity in elderly men. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 25(5), 493-500.
Kohrt, W. M., Bloomfield, S. A., Little, K. D., Nelson, M. E., Yingling, V. R., & Gillis, D. E. (2004). Resistance exercise in individuals with and without cardiovascular disease: 2007 update: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology and Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism. Circulation, 116(5), 572-584.
Liu, C. J., Liao, Y. C., Chen, C. Y., & Chen, Y. C. (2015). Resistance training and the risk of cancer mortality: A population-based cohort study. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 47(3), 564-572.
Phillips, S. M., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Parise, G. (2015). Resistance training for health and longevity. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 43(4), 153-162.
Saremi, A., Gharakhanlou, R., Sharghi, S., Gharaati, M. R., & Larijani, B. (2014). The effects of exercise on sleep quality and quantity in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 18(5), 469-478
Weigle, D. S., Self, B., Schwartz, M. W., Westphal, S. A., & Leidig, M. M. (2005). A high-protein diet elicits sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1), 41-48.