If resistance training is part of your fitness routine, you may be motivated by the actual muscle gains this type of exercise provides. From feeling stronger and more efficient in daily activities to actually seeing more definition in your muscles when you look in the mirror, some benefits of resistance training are obvious. But building strength through activities like lifting weights, using resistance bands, or even performing bodyweight exercises like push-ups goes beyond muscle gains. From establishing more mobility to supporting your metabolism and even improving brain function, the benefits of resistance training are plentiful and diverse. If you’ve been looking for a reason other than muscle gains to begin a resistance training routine, or maybe just need some reasons to continue yours on days you’re lacking motivation, here are six unexpected ways that this type of exercise can support your body.
1. It’s good for your heart.
It’s a common assumption that in order to achieve cardiovascular benefits, you have to be engaging in heart-thumping cardiovascular activity, but resistance training can support your heart and blood vessels too. Lifting weights and other forms of strength training reduces risk of heart attack and stroke, lowers blood pressure, and improves overall cardiovascular health. Increased lean muscle mass also provides more surface area for blood to flow, which in turn puts less pressure on arteries.
2. It keeps your metabolism humming.
Many people associate caloric burn with cardiovascular exercise like running, biking, or swimming, but resistance training helps support energy burn (i.e. your metabolism) in a big way. The increased muscle mass gained from resistance training increases your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories your body uses when it is at rest. So, if you have more muscle mass, you will burn more calories – even when you’re sleeping.
3. It increases mobility.
A decline in mobility can often come with age, and it can put you at risk for falls and injury. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training improves mobility, especially in older adults, and when combined with aerobic training it has been proven to reduce falls as well. Mobility can also help you perform everyday tasks, such as carrying bags of groceries or lifting a small child, with more efficiency and with a lower chance of injury.
4. It strengthens your bones!
Not only does resistance training support the strength of your muscles, but it also helps maintain density and strength in your bones as well. Regular strength training has been shown to improve mineral bone density, which lowers your risk of fractures. It also slows bone loss and helps prevent diseases like osteoporosis, which is a major cause of disability, especially in older women.
5. It improves cognition and mood.
When it comes to your brain, resistance training could be your ticket to sharper cognitive function and even mood improvement. Lifting weights and other types of muscle-building exercise have been shown to increase memory, enhance the ability to handle life’s challenges and stress, and ease depression symptoms. Research shows that resistance training can restore cognitive deficits and even slow or halt dementia and Alzheimer’s.
6. It helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
In addition to your bones, muscle mass also comes into play in your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity as well. Low muscle mass is associated with insulin resistance, and chronic insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. Gaining and maintaining muscle mass through resistance training can help prevent this disease, and can also help regulate blood sugar levels.
With so many benefits beyond just muscle gain, resistance training can absolutely be a key component to feeling your best, preventing disease and injury, moving with integrity and mobility, and even keeping your metabolism efficient as you age. Combining aerobic training or cardiovascular exercise with resistance training in a balanced fitness program can help you achieve the results you’re after, whether short-term, long-term, physical, or mental.