Resistance training is a great form of exercise to improve strength and build muscle, with many people simply hitting the weights room to look bigger or stronger. However, not many people know about the added benefits that strength training has on general health and wellbeing.
Fitness expert Nick English from BarBend has revealed the surprising benefits that lifting weights can have, looking beyond the “lifting to look good” approach.
Improved Brain Function
Weight training has been proven to slow the rate of brain shrinkage, a common occurrence with age. Regular resistance training improves critical thinking skills and recalls ability, with early practice having a greater effect in later life. This is because progressive resistance training increases protein activation, so in the case of BDNF, a protein that is used to develop new brain cells, greater activation means more brain cells, in turn reducing the likelihood of mental decline and the onset of certain neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
Reduction in Blood Cholesterol Levels
Heavy resistance training has been known to help reduce body fat, and this, in turn, correlates to blood cholesterol levels. In one study, heavy strength training for 14 weeks significantly reduced cholesterol levels and, therefore, the onset of heart disease. It’s highly recommended that individuals carry out cardiovascular and resistance training for the most effective fat loss strategy.
The gene’s you’re born with isn’t the be-all and end-all of your genetic makeup. Resistance training can play a big part. Strength training activates specific genes, reprogramming your genetic makeup. It has been associated with improved protein synthesis, response to physical stressors, and immunity, all things influenced by genes.
Several studies have suggested that strength training could be the most effective form of exercise to reduce anxiety. This is because resistance training causes neurological adaptions in the brain by rewiring neurone pathways. Although many studies have shown the benefits of exercise and resistance training in relation to mental health issues, you should speak to a medical practitioner first if you think you may be experiencing symptoms.
Reduced Stroke Risk
It’s commonly known that physical activity reduces stroke risk. Most studies don’t express differences between aerobic and resistance training, but grip strength has been found to greatly influence stroke risk, leading to the association with strength training.
Posture is a significant contributor to back pain, so improving posture is important to prevent any discomfort or pain. Strength training can improve your core and strengthen the muscles that aid good posture, like those in the hips, spine, and shoulders. A fact that often surprises people is the benefits that good posture also has on mental function and cognition. (9, 10)
Some studies have suggested that performing a physical activity with co-workers or peers can greatly reduce work-related stress and improve quality of life, not to mention the social benefits of training together. Group sessions, or even just a workout partner, can have a great influence on motivation, or even spotting, which can improve your workout as well as create a good bonding experience.
Improved Sleep Quality
A big part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle is sleep, so it is very important to be well-rested. Weight training is one of the most supported physical activities for improving rest quality, with some research suggesting that strength training is just as effective to help sleep as certain medications.
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