The fitness and medical communities are finally aligning to support the fact that strength training not only can be a positive experience for all ages – building muscle, burning fat, improving our posture and strengthening our bone structure, but it also provides us with amazing mind, body and spiritual benefits that include enhanced cardiovascular and neurological functioning, stronger resistance to chronic illnesses, and a more flexible and resilient mind. The real beauty of strength training is that 15-20 minutes 2-3 times per week is enough to produce significant strength gains!
Let’s examine some these benefits:
1. Fighting Off Chronic Ilness – improving muscular strength has been proven to provide a measurable protection against heart disease, cancer, hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes. Strength training enhances the delivery of more oxygenated blood through your system. This helps our body detox and deliver vital nutrients. It also aids the body and mind in stress reduction and management.
2. Enhancing Longevity and Slowing Down The Aging Process – studies show that strength combined with high intensity and interval training not only helps build a stronger body but also a more resilient mind. BDNF protein in the brain is elevated which has also been shown to reduce beta amyloid plaguing associated with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, increases in neurogenesis and neuroplastcity have also been measured – specifically, neural activity and brain volume. Additionally, a pronounce loss of muscle mass ( sarcopenia) especially the larger fast twitch fibers which are responsible for strength and power can really affect the senior population. Some muscle loss is unavoidable as we age – due to diminished levels of muscle-building hormones and the capacity to convert energy from food into muscle.
3. A Stronger Mind and Body Helps You Sleep Better – restorative sleep and removal of brain and body toxins are critical to our overall health and longevity. Also, if you feel better about yourself and your appearance you will naturally lower your stress levels as you build self-confidence and sleep more soundly.
4. Strength Training Balances Hormones- the best medicine for your hormones is strength training – by creating hormonal changes that help both men and women burn fat while building muscle. Human growth hormone is released that aids in this process and also increases insulin sensitivity ( helping control blood sugar and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes). Strength training also helps regulate testosterone and estrogen – which are vital as we age.
5. Strength Training Keeps You Lean – muscle tissue is the engine that drives fat loss. Additionally, the anaerobic effects also contribute to the fat burning through a process called Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC – increased calorie burning and elevated metabolic function which can last up to 3 days post workout. The best and most effective method for building muscle and a strong body is to perform compound exercises ( ex: squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, rows) that involve the participation of 2 or more joints.
6. Brain Benefits – much research has been done to prove the correlation between strength training and brain health, reversing or slowing down the effects of cognitive decline and depression. Additionally, studies have shown the the more challenging the strength workout the greater impact on brain function. Some neuroscientists believe that strength training helps stimulate the release of insulin-like growth factor 1 ( IGF-1) a protein that helps promote neuronal growth. Also changes in cardiovascular and metabolic function can effect brain health.