You know that lifting weights has some benefits, but do you actually know what they are? Find out the 12 most surprising benefits of strength training!
When people talk about the health effects of exercise, most of the time they mean aerobic activity.
You know, running, jogging, cycling, and swimming. All that boring stuff that has you doing some sort of repetitive motion over and over again.
I kid, I kid.
I meant, its not that boring.
In all seriousness, there is obviously nothing wrong with this. Aerobic exercise has long been considered the gold standard for improving health and function. In fact, simply incorporating some aerobic activity into your weekly schedule has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, help prevent obesity, and can even stave off a premature death.
Which is pretty damn positive.
But typically less discussed are the many benefits of strength training.
Like the bastard stepchild you leave outside on a cold Christmas morning, strength training is often ignored by the masses. Something left to meatheads who stroll around festivals wearing nothing but a bumbag and a pair of bright yellow short shorts (not that there is anything wrong with this sort of thing, of course).
Which is a shame, because beyond this, strength training offers a myriad of benefits for literally everyone on the planet.
Hence the reason I am shedding some light on the topic.
12 Surprising Benefits of Strength Training
In my personal opinion, strength training is one of the best things you can do for your body.
In terms of getting the most bang-for-your-buck from a health and performance perspective, it is incomparable.
With this in mind, I have gone ahead and outlined the 12 most surprising benefits of strength training for your reading pleasure.
1. Strength Training Improves Cardiovascular Health
Aerobic exercise rose to such great heights because of its impact on cardiovascular health. In this manner, it is often considered to be the most effective method of improving the health and function of the cardiovascular system, and staving off heart disease.
However, it certainly isn’t alone on top of this mountain.
There is a large body of evidence clearly demonstrating that regular strength training can improve the function of your arteries and veins, while also limiting your risk arterial plaque build up.
This means reductions in blood pressure, and a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
2. Strength Training Prevents Diabetes
Strength training is arguably the most effective methods of improving metabolic health on the planet.
It directly impacts the muscle tissues ability to absorb, store, and use blood glucose, which does wonders for your blood sugar levels. Moreover, it also improves your sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is super important.
As a result, research has consistently shown that strength training offers a very potent way to prevent the onset of diabetes.
3. Strength Training Enhances Mental Health
One of the more unique benefits of strength training revolves around its ability to improve your mental health. A single bout of strength training can improve your mood and get you feeling better immediately.
But even more impressive are the long term effects.
You see, consistent strength training has been shown to reduce the symptoms of clinically diagnosed depression and anxiety.
Like I said, impressive.
4. Strength Training Helps Persistent Pain
Here at iNform, we pride ourselves on our ability to get people out of pain, and turn them into strong, functional, and physically confident human beings.
And strength training is a large part of this.
Strength training has shown time and time again to be one of the most effective treatments for persistent and chronic pain that we have available to us.
So why not use it?
5. Strength Training Staves Off Osteoporosis
Strength training is unique because it also loads the skeleton. As a result, it places your bones under mechanical stress, which stimulates an increase in bone growth.
With this in mind, strength training causes significant increases in your bone mineral density, which can go a very long way to staving off osteoporosis.
6. Strength Training Boosts Cognitive Function
I have already gone ahead and said that strength training makes you happier, but did you know it can also make you smarter?
Well, kind of…
Regular strength training has been shown to cause marked improvements in global cognitive function and ability, while also causing some small improvements in memory capabilities.
Talk about brain gains, bruh.
7. Strength Training Increases Quality of Life
As you age, your physical capacity deteriorates. Your ability to manage normal tasks of daily living worsens.
In short, life gets harder.
But it doesn’t have to.
You see, the vast majority of these changes occur due to a loss of strength. Which can easily be mitigated by regular strength training.
There is a very good reason as to why strength training has consistently been shown to improve functional capacity and quality of life – because it works, and it works very well (duh…).
8. Strength Training Helps You Live Longer
Whether it is due to the associated health benefits, the improvements in functional capacity, or the improvements in mood, we cant be sure. But for whatever reason, older adults who strength train on the regular appear to be 46% less likely of dying than those who do not.
I don’t know about you, but I like those odds.
9. Strength Training Makes Your Balance Better
Having adequate muscle strength is integral to stabilizing your body’s joints, and therefore maintaining your balance. Conversely, if you lose strength (as we tend to with inactive aging, for example), balance decreases, and you risk of falling increases .
Its not good.
However, strength training has been shown to reverse this phenomenon by improving your balance in a very big way.
I should also note that individualized strength training actually appears to offer a more effective way of improving balance than traditional balance-style training on wobble boards and other crazy contraptions.
So ditch the wobble board and pick up a dumbbell. Your body will thank you for it.
10. Strength Training Gets You Sleeping Better
I love sleep.
I hate not being able to get to sleep.
Like, a lot.
Fortunately, I have a very simple remedy.
Starting a regular strength training routine has been shown to cause huge improvements in sleep quality, and can even get you sleeping longer. This has obvious implications for your health, and your ability to function on a daily basis.
In summary, getting stronger = sleeping better.
11. Strength Training Promotes Fat Loss
Strength training increases the amount of muscle mass that you have on your body. Now, muscle tissue is known as active tissue because it actually burns energy to function.
To put it simply, the more muscle you have on your body, the more energy your burn every single day – irrespective of your actual exercise levels.
As a result, strength training has shown time and time again to be a very good way of promoting fat loss.
12. Strength Training Improves Endurance Performance
Last but not least, strength training has even been shown to improve endurance performance.
Most people who run marathons, or love hopping on the bike for long rides, often have the misconception that lifting weights will make them heavier, and therefore make them slower. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Strength training actually makes your muscular system more efficient, while also increasing the amount of force you can put into every stroke of the pedal, or every strike of the ground. In turn, it has been shown to improve your efficiency as both a runner and a cyclist.
This simply means that strength training makes you faster over long distances, not slower.
Take Home Message
Its a shame to think about all those people who have died in pursuit of the fountain of youth when it was under their nose the whole time. Yep, strength training.
With the ability to improve everything from heart health and cognitive function, all the way to endurance performance, it is hands down the most bang for your buck exercise modality on the planet.
So what are you waiting for?
Go pick up something heavy and put it down again – your body (and mind) will thank you for it.
About the Author
Have you always been scared of the gym? You walk up to the door of the fitness centre and can feel your heart rate increasing already, your breathing is getting faster. You grab the door handle and notice your hands are a bit sweaty and a little shaky too. Your stomach feels a little queasy all of a sudden. The gym has always had this effect on you, so your workouts are short and rushed so you can get out. You can’t put your finger on what it is, but going to the gym makes you feel uneasy, scared even. Because of this, your best made plans always fall away because you don’t like going.
Does this sound like you?
How about this one?
You rock up to the theme park and get in line for the latest thrill ride. It has a huge first drop, then straight into a triple corkscrew. You are so excited, you can barely contain yourself. Your breathing is fast, heart rate is elevated. You feel a bit shaky and your partner won’t hold your hand because it’s sweaty. Your stomach is feeling a little funny now, maybe that double choc thick-shake was a bad idea!
Hang on……aren’t they all the same responses you got when you went to the gym? Well, Quite simply, yes!
What’s going on here?
Arousal is arousal. When you get scared the brain releases adrenaline and cortisol which creates all of the above mentioned physiological responses. Essentially it’s getting the body ready to move and react, in whatever way that may be. You may know it as the fight or flight response. When you get excited, the exact same process happens. The adrenaline that flows through your body from fear is the same adrenaline that flows through your body when you are excited.
So how come some things we choose to view as fear, and others as excitement? Ultimately it comes down to our mindset and how we choose to interpret the stimulus. Maybe it has to do with past experiences that can drive particular negative or positive associations and can therefore make an experience either an exciting one, or one that holds great fear.
So next time you walk into your gym and get these feelings of fear, take a moment to think about them, about why you’re feeling them what they actually mean and then move on. Could it be that you aren’t scared of the gym, that you are actually very excited about the change you are about to make and the positive impact this will have on you?
My advice to you if you do actually feel you are scared of the gym, is to look around. Not all gyms are made equal. Find somewhere that suits you and suits what you want and need. Secondly, learn to breath! Practice deep, even and controlled breathing through your diaphragm. This breathing can help to get your body back to a ‘normal’ state faster and in turn will lower your emotional arousal levels and be more in control of any situation.
Finally, find an exercise coach that you resonate with so that they can help create a positive atmosphere for you in your journey to a better and healthier self.
About the Author
Everybody on the planet knows full well that exercise is damn good for them. But for some reason, they consistently fail to do enough of it.
Now don’t get me wrong – I certainly appreciate that life can get in the way. Things get busy, time becomes limited, and exercise is often (and unfortunately) the first thing to go.
But to be completely honest, this isn’t really good enough.
You owe it to yourself to keep active.
Exercising on the regular staves off disease, improves your cognition and brain health, and helps you manage your weight. It even ensures that you can function at a high level well into your golden years (whenever they may be).
In short, exercise is a must.
So the key question isn’t ‘should I exercise?’ but rather, ‘how can I get the benefits of exercise, with the smallest possible time commitment?’
Enter high intensity interval training (or HIIT, for short)
What is HIIT?
HIIT is a type of exercise that revolves around performing short periods of intense exercise, alternating with low intensity recovery periods.
Pretty simple really.
A HIIT session might have you on the rower for 30 seconds at a near maximal intensity, and then 60 seconds at a very low intensity. This protocol would then be repeated for a total of 10 or 20 minutes, giving you a solid workout in the process.
Just to be clear – these higher intensity periods are pretty tough. In fact, they have you working much harder than you would be if you chose to go for a long jog.
But that’s kind of the point.
Because you are working harder than you would under normal circumstances, a single HIIT session requires less time. So much so, that a typical HIIT session will only last about one third of the time of a traditional ‘low-intensity’ training session, and give you as much (if not more) benefit.
HIIT = lots of bang for your buck.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
As I have already alluded to above, HIIT offers you a myriad of benefits.
Firstly, it increases your energy expenditure during the session, and after the session is finished. This means it really helps with weight management.
It also helps lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. This is important, as it lowers your chance of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes – two of the most common chronic diseases in modern society.
HIIT also impacts mental health.
A single HIIT session improves mood, and reduces stress and anxiety. Moreover, regular HIIT prevents against the onset of depression and anxiety.
Last but not least, HIIT causes vast improvement in fitness, and in a very short amount of time. It is even more effective than more traditional forms of aerobic exercise . This means that if you want to get as fit as possible as quickly as possible, then this is a good place to start.
So, in summary, heaps of benefit with minimal time commitment.
How can I do HIIT?
You know that HIIT offers a very simple way of getting all the benefits of exercise, and in a very short amount of time. Now I want to touch on how you can implement it.
With this in mind, I have outlined a few of my favorite HIIT protocols below. You can simply select one of these, pick your favorite mode of exercise (whether it be running, on the bike, or on the rower), and go for barney!
- Protocol 1: 30 seconds at 75% maximal speed, followed by 30 seconds are 40% maximal speed, for a duration of 8 minutes. Rest for 4 minutes, and then repeat once more.
- Protocol 2: 15 seconds at 90% maximal speed, followed by 15 seconds completely stationary, for a duration of 8 minutes. Rest for 4 minutes, and then repeat once more.
- Protocol 3 60 seconds at 75% maximal speed, followed by 120 seconds are 50% maximal speed, for a duration of 24 minutes.
- Protocol 4: 30 seconds at 85% maximal speed, followed by 60 seconds are 40% maximal speed, for a duration of 24 minutes.
I should also touch on the fact that HIIT is quite demanding. Because of this, it really only needs to be completed 1-2 times per week.
Obviously you are more than welcome to perform other types of exercise around this (in fact, I would encourage it). As such, it makes the perfect supplement to your weight training sessions, and any longer duration aerobic activity that you might choose to do.
Take Home Message
HIIT offers a really simple way you can get some effective exercise into your routine, in the shortest amount of time possible. With this comes a number of potent health and fitness benefits, that may even outweigh those seen with traditional endurance training.
So give some of the protocols listed in this article a go and get back to us – we would love to hear how you went!
About the Author
There is no shortage of people who want to discourage you from running. “It’s bad for your knees!” they knowingly proclaim. Worryingly, some of these people are Medical and Health Professionals. Aren’t we supposed to be encouraging Australians to be more active? So what’s with this?
Is there evidence to link running and knee injury?
Well yes and no. If you take a group of runners and monitor them over the course of a year, some will get injured- and the most likely part of the body that will sustain the injury is the knees. There are a few studies that have looked at this, and the numbers vary from study to study but the consistent themes are; running comes with injury risk; and the knee is the most likely spot you’ll feel it.
But does this justify the blanket rule that running is bad for your knees? If so, we would also have to conclude the golf is bad for your back, swimming is bad for your shoulders and cycling is bad for your neck. Should we also avoid these forms of physical activity?
Why do some runner’s knees get injured?
There is no single answer to this, and the reality is that injuries that develop over time generally do so because of the convergence of a number of factors. Here is a case study that can illustrate this point:
Steve is 45 and works long hours as a Chartered Accountant. He spends extended stretches of time at his computer, occasionally getting up to make another coffee. He often skips lunch, but when he can sneak out he usually grabs whatever is quick and easy from the Bakery across the road. After work he drops in to his local for a quick beer or two with a couple of mates, before getting home in time for dinner with the family. When the kids are off to bed, the feet are up and he spends more time than he should watching Netflix. His sleep is short and poor in quality as a result.
Steve sees his Doctor who informs him his blood pressure, blood glucose and waist circumference are all trending towards the red-zone, and that he needs to start doing some exercise immediately to turn things around. Steve heeds the warning, so early Saturday morning he laces up his ten year old sneakers he usually wears to mow the lawn, chucks on a t-shirt and shorts and gets out to his local Park-Run 5km. Steve starts out confidently but after about 500m starts to puff and pant. By 2km his knees and lower back are getting sore but he is a determined bugger, so he drags himself across the next 3km with a slow, loping stride. ‘This will only get easier’ he tells himself, and to his credit he repeats this torture for the next 3 weeks.
By Sunday after week 4, his knees are swollen, sore and hot to the touch. He sees his Doctor again the following day and fills him in. “Well you shouldn’t have started running, don’t you know running is bad for your knees?! You should walk, or maybe ride a bike instead”.
Was running the problem here? Or what is that Steve, although well-intentioned, just plunged himself into a task he was completely under-prepared for and hurt himself as a consequence?
Steve’s current lifestyle needs a dramatic overhaul- his overall health could benefit greatly from making some improvements to his diet, reducing his sedentary time, reducing his alcohol frequency and making sleep a greater priority.
Steve could get some advice on footwear by someone who knows what they are talking about. He could also invest some time and money speaking to an expert on how to build his body and his running form so that when he does run he has the strength and the technique to do so more efficiently.
This sounds like an awful lot. But the reality is that running is hard on your body but that is why it can impact our health in such profound, positive way. Our body adapts and evolves to physical stress if it is dosed out appropriately. It is worth making the health changes to equip your body to not only meet the demands of running, but to thrive on them.
Running is not inherently bad for your knees. Running does put your overall health under the microscope, and penalises you for what you neglect. Rather than discouraging people from running, we as Health Professionals should be encouraging our clients to audit and refine how they take care of themselves.
About the Author
How hard should I work out?
There is a common misconception within the health industry that to see results, you need to go balls to the wall every single session.
That a sign of muscle soreness is the sign of a good workout.
That being on your haunches and vomiting all over the place is somehow a good thing.
Which (in my personal opinion) is a load of absolute rubbish.
Now, before you start screaming for my head, let me clarify.
I am not saying you should never train hard.
Honestly, that would be absurd.
In fact, having a few really intense training sessions every couple of weeks is a great way to promote extra progress, keep yourself motivated, and test yourself both physically and mentally.
These sessions are important, because they essentially provide some insight into your progress, while also driving adaption.
In short, you need to train with some serious intensity sometimes.
But you shouldn’t be getting smashed every single session.
Here’s the kicker. To see progress, you also need to allow yourself time to recover from your training.
As a general rule of thumb, the more intense your training sessions is, the longer you need to take to recover from that session.
You know that debilitating pain in your bum you get after completing a heavy lower body session? That’s a sign of muscle damage (good muscle damage, I should add). This is a surefire way to tell that you need to pull back and allow a couple of days for your legs to recover.
Now, if you ignore this pain and keep training those legs hard and heavy, you will eventually reach a point where recovery stops completely. As a result, you will cease to see any progress, and may even get injured.
This would be silly (read: stupid).
However, I’m not saying that during this period of recovery you don’t train at all. It just means that you either pull back a bit, or go hard on other areas of your body, which would obviously give your legs a bit of a break.
And the same can obviously be said for any other mode of exercise.
If you have a really solid run one day, then don’t repeat that same run the next day. Take a couple of days to train in the gym (preferably with more upper body dominant movements). Or maybe go for a light swim or bike ride.
Pretty simple really.
Just make sure that you allow the fatigue to dissipate and your body to adapt before putting it through another brutal session.
How Hard Should I Work Out?
With all this in mind, to see consistent progress there is a bit of a balance that needs to be managed closely.
You need to know when to push hard, and when to pull back.
As a result, if you are training on a regular basis, most of your training sessions will fall somewhere right in the middle of ‘barely working up a sweat’ and ‘near exhaustion’.
Which is actually a very good thing.
This middle ground is where you simply put in the work. You come into the gym, and develop your technical proficiency. You stress your body enough to elicit a response, but not so much that you need to take a few days off training completely.
In doing so, you guarantee consistent progress across your training journey, without falling apart or getting injured.
Which in my mind, is a pretty good way to go about it.
About the Author
Did you know that 99.9% of all new years resolutions fail within the first 9 days?
OK, so I made that up.
I don’t know the exact statistic, and I really couldn’t be bothered trawling through the ABS website trying to find it, but I don’t doubt that this number is too far from the truth.
An incredible number of people make new years resolutions come the turn of January, every single year.
They swear they will finally start eating better, finally lose those 10kgs, and finally get ready to run that marathon – and they start like a bull out of a gate.
Until it simply just peters out.
They run out of steam.
Their five runs a week quickly turn into three, and then one, and then they just stop completely.
All that healthy meal prep becomes too much of a hassle, and boy oh boy does that Zambrero’s look damn good right now.
But there is always next year, right?
Cant wait to fail all over again…
Why your resolutions fail?
So, why do most new years resolutions fail?
In my humble opinion, those people who fail simply bite off more than they can chew.
They essentially try and turn their entire life around the space of a few days.
Really, is it any wonder that it all falls apart?
Building healthy habits take a unique combination of time and willpower – both of which are, in my personal opinion, finite resources.
As soon as you exhaust your supply of either one, well, you can say adios to your resolution.
What can you do about it?
The key to making your new years resolution actually stick comes down to making simple lifestyle changes that are not only easy to implement (and therefore require minimal willpower), but also offer a whole lot of bang for your buck.
Target the low hanging fruit, if you will.
For example, if your goal does happen to be something weight loss related, then its probably not in your best interest to try and completely overhaul your entire diet.
Because, ultimately, you will fail.
A much better approach would be to focus on those areas where you constantly fall down, and then aim to correct them.
If you often snack on sweets after dinner, throw out your sweets (willpower is no longer an issue).
If you struggle eat enough protein, have a protein shake before dinner (easy and effective).
And if you find yourself without the time required to prepare your food during the week? Prepare your meals in advance (zero effort during the week).
Each of these with have a very large impact on your diet, and honestly do not require all that much effort or willpower.
From an exercise perspective, what if you find that you want to actually start an exercise program and work towards a training goal? Then make sure to start small.
Don’t try and go for a run every day, because again, you will fail.
Try commencing you new routine with one session per week. Adhere to this for a month, and then slowly add in a second.
Make it habitual, and make it easy.
One run per week for an entire year is going to have much more impact than getting in five runs in a single week once per year.
Makes sense, right?
Of course, if you are after any help (or even some simple ideas) drop us a comment and we will endeavor to get back to you as quickly as possible so that we can give you hand.
Stuff your resolution, and decide to make some real change.
About the Author