How strength training benefits your body and mind
by Priti Desai
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
It’s a common misconception that strength training isn’t for regular folks, and only professional bodybuilders and those interested in bulking up should be lifting weights. If this thought is what’s making you keep the dumbbells at an arm’s length, it’s time to alter your thinking.
Incorporating weight training into your regular exercise routine is one of the best ways to transform not just your physical appearance, but your overall health too. This means the importance of strength training isn’t something that can be overlooked.
It’s a proven fact that regularly working with weights (bodyweight, machines or dumbbells), can be an extremely effective way to strengthen your bones and enhance muscle tone. In fact, there is also evidence that suggests strength training helps prevent cancer.
It’s effective in reducing your risk of Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and your body mass index (BMI). If this isn’t motivation enough, strength training also has distinct psychological benefits. Here we take a closer look at exactly how it benefits your body and mind.
It can be exhilarating to transition from lifting 5kg dumbbells to 7kgs. Over time, you simply get better at what you do, feel stronger and develop a deep sense of mastery. This helps improve your confidence levels, which boosts self-esteem.
Improves Your Fitness Levels
People that balance their aerobic or cardiovascular workouts with resistance training feel their bodies getting stronger. Their energy levels increase, which in turn encourages them to up their ante. Obese individuals tend to be low on motivation when it comes to following a steady exercise routine.
But when they incorporate a strength training program into any other workout plan they are following, it gives their body the energy to persist. Thus, weight training doesn’t just help tone muscle but also helps your body get into a fat-burning mode which has a positive impact on your fitness levels.
The Difference Will be Noticeable
It isn’t uncommon for people who are embarking on their fitness journey to start out with a bang and then slowly lose steam along the way. This sudden peak and plateau in their enthusiasm and determination levels can occur because of two reasons.
Firstly, they feel boredom setting in when they follow a predictable workout routine. Secondly, they feel there isn’t any change in either their appearance or body weight (after the minor initial weight loss they experience). This is when their confidence levels take a dive and their enthusiasm begins to peter out.
This is exactly why strength training is good for you. It’s an excellent motivator because you notice progress quickly. If someone starts on a walking program for weight loss, it will definitely take some time before they see tangible results. But with weight training, you will feel a difference even after a single session. In fact, all it takes is a few well-planned workouts before you’ll notice an improvement in body tone, making it a great option for those that crave instant gratification.
Enhances Your Brain Power
Across the world, researchers have been studying how exercise helps strengthen the brain and how it can help ward off diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, later in life. Studies of older people have shown that regular cardio training helps bolster their analytic tasks, whereas strength training improves their capacity for practical skills.
Strength training (like many other exercises), increases the level of growth factors or brain chemicals. These growth factors help establish new connections between our brain cells, allowing us to stay alert and learn better.
The “how’s” and “why’s” of this effect are being continually researched, to gain a better understanding of it. Nevertheless, the evidence is extremely encouraging. When you add a good dose of strength training to your regular workout instead of simply focusing on cardio, you become smarter too!!
Gives You a Sense of Accomplishment
People that have never done strength training earlier, often feel that they’re too old or weak to lift weights. Many wonder whether it will be beneficial to them at all. But the fact is that even the World Health Organisation’s Exercise Guidelines state that muscle-strengthening exercises should be done on 2 or more days every week. If you’re just starting out on lifting weights, you can challenge yourself by:
- Gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift
- Increasing the number of repetitions per exercise
- Increasing the number of sets per exercise
- Attempting more challenging exercises
It’s important that you set strength training goals for yourself and don’t falter on them. Lifting weights regularly will improve your physical strength, which can be very empowering.
You’ll Be More In-Sync With Your Body
It’s normal to feel a certain amount of soreness post a strength training session. And sometimes, this may seem like a big setback. However, over time you’ll begin to realise it indicates that you’re getting stronger, you’ve done something worthwhile. The soreness is your body telling you that you’ve had a great workout.
If you start looking forward to the fatigue and sweat and interpret them in a positive manner, you’ll start to be in sync with your body. It will help you better understand what’s working for you and what isn’t. A word of caution- It’s vital that you learn to recognise the difference between normal and excessive soreness.
You’ll Find Your Stresses And Mundane Worries Fading Away
When you are in the midst of a particularly strenuous strength training routine, it’s difficult to think about chores that have piled up or other stresses that have been nagging you. That’s because strength training requires focus and intensity, which makes it impossible for you to be anywhere else but in the present moment. It’s why your weight training workout becomes a very effective distractor for the common stressors of your daily life.
While it’s a known fact that strength training increases strength, there is some evidence that weight training may help to ease depression. It improves mental health and wellbeing, along with physical strength.
If you feel that the strength training exercises at home don’t work for you, consider working with a professional physical trainer. He or she will provide the guidance and motivation you need to keep you on track and help you achieve your goals. This sense of achievement will filter through into other areas of your life as well.