Back when I was studying, I remember when we started learning about the benefits of strength training and thinking to myself “Wait… Why didn’t I start this ‘strength training’ thing earlier?!” because there are countless amounts of benefits and I’m not only talking about the aesthetics side of things. The health benefits of strength training extend way beyond hitting a certain number on the scales and looking amazing in your swimwear. These are just an added bonus! And YES, admittedly these are things we all use as a motivation tool when it comes to putting hours in at the gym, however it shouldn’t be the only reason you are putting in the hard work.Body composition should not be the only goal.Strength training is not only associated with heavy barbells and dumbbells, it is a type of physical exercise where resistance is used to oppose the force generated by your muscles through concentric and eccentric contractions. Whether this be with resistance bands, suspension ropes or no equipment at all. Body weight exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups are classified as strength training
It is a very common misconception that you need to spend hours on the treadmill or elliptical in order to burn a sufficient amount of calories. You don’t need to attend 9 spin classes a week to see results. Although weight training/strength training doesn’t typically burn as many calories as a cardio-based workout, it is more effective as when you are training with weights you are building muscle, and muscle burns more calories at rest than some other tissues, including fat.
Another benefit of strength training that should be known to all is cardiovascular health. Yes, cardiovascular health has numerous risk factors of which we have no control over (age, gender, and genetics) BUT it does have a few which we can control. Common modifiable risk factors include obesity, type 2 diabetes and high resting blood pressure (hypertension). Strength training can help in the management of obesity, as the training results in a decrease in fat mass and also causes significant reductions in visceral abdominal fat. You will also reduce your blood pressure at the same time, meaning you are far less likely to have hypertension which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
I always remind my clients that their bodies are still burning through the calories hours after they have finished a weights session. You can be sitting at home watching Netflix and you’re still burning fat, which is great news! One thing that has always stuck with me when it comes to the benefits of strength training is bone mineral density. I remember learning about this for the first time and thinking “Wow, I don’t want Osteoporosis. No thank you!”. Bone mineral density refers to the amount of bone mineral per unit of bone tissue and essentially this reflects the strength of your bones. The last thing you want is bones that are weak and prone to fractures. Osteoporosis affects a scary amount of the population (Like, millions) and these numbers could be dramatically reduced if strength training was incorporated into their lives.
Now let’s talk about ageing. It’s inevitable that this is going to happen to all of us! If you put ageing and physical inactivity together, this gradually results in a reduced ability to go about your basic activities in your daily life. For example, walking around, getting out of your chair, climbing the stairs, bending down to pick things up. We’re not talking extremely strenuous activities here; we’re talking the basic movements in which we all do on a day-to-day basis. I have an 80-year-old client (Amazing, right!?) who had a knee injury many moons ago. This resulted in years of struggling to get up off the couch, struggling to walk without a limp, struggling to bend his leg or fully extend it. We have been doing 2-3 strength training sessions a week now for 6 months putting a large focus on extensions, mobility and isometric contractions and he is a completely different person. He is now mobile, he walks (and runs!) without a limp, gets up off his seat without thinking twice and generally moves better. He always says he is so much happier now because he feels such a difference in his functional abilities and enjoys his life more now that he is able to do is day-to-day life without any struggles. So if you are struggling with an ongoing issue, consider strength training and be sure to seek the assistance of a professional when doing so.Last but not least, let’s cover the body composition changes you experience when strength training. As I mentioned earlier, these are an added bonus! Whilst you’re busy improving the function of your heart, lessening the chances of developing hypertension, increasing your bone density and boosting your metabolic rate, your body undergoes physical changes. You start to like what you see in the mirror, you drop a few dress sizes and your confidence sky rockets. What’s not to love about this? If you haven’t started your strength training journey already, find yourself an experienced and educated health professional who can guide you and assist you in becoming a better version of yourself. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it!
Author: Nicole Bradley, REPs Level 3 certified Trainer