The importance of physical exercise to living a healthy lifestyle is becoming better understood as more and more people look for ways to incorporate it more into their daily routines. What might not be as well understood are the benefits that these different forms of exercise can provide. Public health guidelines often tend to focus their advice around steady-state cardiovascular exercise, which enhances cardio respiratory fitness, has some impact of body composition, and increases energy expenditure to achieve a calorie deficit. However, there is an increasing amount of research that shows that resistance training may actually be the superior choice for numerous reasons.
Resistance training isn’t just for those looking to put on huge amounts of muscle. There may be many misconceptions that resistance training is ‘just for men’ or will make you look ‘bulky’. The numerous benefits of resistance training are applicable to everyone, and ladies you don’t need worry, you won’t look big or bulky (if only it was that easy, as most men will tell you)! In this article we will help you to see the long list of benefits that resistance training can provide.
There are numerous benefits to overall health that resistance training can provide. It has been shown to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. It helps to lower blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity, which helps to control and reduce the risk of diabetes. These points greatly reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease or obesity.
Resistance training leads to an increase in muscle mass, which before anyone panics, is a good thing, a very good thing. An increase in muscle mass leads to an increase in energy expenditure at rest. Basically this means that muscle has a greater need of energy to sustain itself, where your body will burn far more calories than normal even when you are resting. This leads to a greater loss in fat stores, further reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. This is a strong advantage that resistance training has over standard cardiovascular training.
In women, resistance training lowers abnormally high levels of oestrogen, which in turn reduces the risk of breast cancer. Oestrogen is also the hormone that is responsible for increasing fat storage in both sexes, so by training with weight oestrogen will decrease and testosterone will increase helping to reduce the storage of fat.
Resistance training can be very physically demanding and requires a lot of energy. This can be extremely advantageous to people who have disrupted sleep patterns. Not only will it tire you out, it will also promote a deeper sleep as method for greater recovery. Resistance training is also a great way to reduce stress as it results in increased dopamine (the feel good chemical of the brain). High stress levels is a major factor in disrupted sleep patterns, the dopamine released as a result of resistance training will help you to relax and a achieve better levels of sleep.
By undertaking a resistance training program you are essentially forcing your body to complete a workload outside of its comfort zone (assuming you are doing it correctly). To try to cope with this demand, your body is forced to adapt by building bigger and stronger muscle fibres. This will lead to an increase in strength, power and muscular endurance that will make everyday tasks become easier and easier. As muscles become stronger, your posture and balance are also improved, as stronger muscle will find it considerably easier to perform normal tasks. Resistance training results in firmer and more defined musculature.
Increase flexibility and injury prevention
Resistance training through full ranges of motion helps to improve the flexibility and strength of your muscles, ligaments and joints. This has numerous benefits, including a greatly reduced risk of injury and helps to fight off the onset of arthritis and age-related muscular decline. As tendons, ligaments and joints become stronger they are less likely to cause you pain through tears, strains or pulls especially in later life.
Increased bone density
Resistance training stimulates your body to increase the density of your bones as one of the adaptations to cope with the stresses you are placing upon it. This results in stronger, more stable and injury resistant joints. It will also help to prevent osteoporosis, particularly in women and the elderly who are typically at a higher risk from this disorder.
Improves mental well being
All exercise, but particularly resistance training, is an excellent way to relieve stress. There is a wealth of scientific research proving just how much of a positive effect exercise can have on an individual’s mental well being. The evidence is so strong in fact, that in the UK exercise is often prescribed as a treatment for mental health problems such as depression. Following intense exercise the brain’s serotonin and dopamine production is greatly increased. These are the pleasure chemicals of the brain and are naturally some of the most effective ways to combat stress.
Resistance training can also have a huge impact on your levels of confidence and self esteem. As your training progresses you will very quickly begin to see changes in your physical composition and appearance. Resistance training is one of the best methods for achieving the body image you desire, and as you begin to change with training your self confidence improves, which will have a positive effect on your mental state. Increased release of serotonin and dopamine with their impact on reducing stress will also greatly improve the ability to achieve more a deeper sleep.
BSc Sports Biomedicine and Nutrition