Although the general health benefits of enhancing muscular and cardiovascular fitness have become well established over the past few decades, many fitness professionals seem to have forgotten these realties, or simply choose to ignore them. I often joke about how I’m trying to bring health & fitness training back to fitness professionals, who are supposed to experts in facilitating it, because many trainers and coaches seem to hold the delusion (likely driven by elistism) that one is wasting their time with exercise or simply spinning their wheels unless one is training for a very specific physique or performance goal.
I hope this article serves as a reminder for some and as a reality check for others who have lost their way that the value of resistance training (and other forms or exercise) goes far beyond trying to get a bigger deadlift or looking better on the beach. Those are what I call “gym rat goals,” and those goals aren’t for everyone. Most clients are exercising “just for the health of it.” They’re not interested in becoming gym rats who organize their lives around gyms, kitchens and bathrooms.
Using resistance training to stay active and improve one’s overall fitness and health while also enjoying the physical challenge it provides is a perfectly worthwhile goal to have. And, in this article I give you seven scientifically founded reasons why.
1. Weight Management
In addition to its potential effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of “metabolic syndrome,” regularly use of resistance training can help to make improvements in body composition. (1,2)
You don’t have to be a cardiologist to know that carrying extra body fat (i.e., being overweight) can place more stress on your heart and put you at greater risk of dealing with health concerns such as diabetes, increased blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased risk of heart attack.
2. Lower Risk of Disease, Death and Functional Limitation
With what was just discussed in #1 in mind, in addition to maintaining a healthier weight, possessing higher levels of muscular strength, which is created by using a regular resistance training program, is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, fewer Cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, lower risk of developing functional limitations. (3,4,5)
3. More Energy, Less Fatigue
Research indicates that regular resistance training may increase ones “energy” levels while also decrease feelings of fatigue. (6)
This comes as no surprise since, as discussed above, resistance training can help to make improvements in body composition. Put simply, carrying around more body fat makes you work harder both in life and in sport. Therefore, the more extra body fat you’ve got, the quicker you’ll get tired and feel fatigued. Following a regular resistance exercise plan can not only help you drop fat, especially when combined with good nutritional habits, but can also help you to become more energy efficient and feel better throughout the day.
4. Helps to Prevent Bone Loss… Even with Osteoporosis
In addition to promoting muscle strength and mass, resistance training also effectively increases bone mass (i.e., bone mineral density and content) and bone strength, and may reduce the chance of developing musculoskeletal disorder (e.g., conditions of the bones, muscles, joints and ligaments) such as osteoporosis. (7,8)
Additionally, resistance training may help to slow down or even reverse the loss of bone mass in people with osteoporosis. (9)
5. Less Anxiety And Depression
Research has shown that resistance training, and physical exercise in general, may prevent and improve depression and anxiety
Studies dating back to 1981 have concluded that not only can regular exercise, such as resistance training, improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression, but it also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression. Other research has even found that exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants. (10)
In regard to anxiety, research has shown that physical exercise reduces anxiety in humans by causing remodeling to take place in the brains of people who workout. This evidence suggests that active people might be less susceptible to certain undesirable aspects of stress and anxiety than those of sedentary people. (11)
6. Improved Brain Function
Scientists once thought that our brains stopped producing new cells early in life, but more recently it’s been discovered that we continue to manufacture new brain cells throughout our life. And, the most potent stimulant of brain growth is physical exercise.
Not only has research shown that physical activity seems to stimulate the production of new brain cells and neurons, while also promoting their survival, which facilitates attention and concentration and help “lock-in” memories when they form; physical activity in later years was associated with lower risks of cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in general (12). Another study concluded that, if exercise began by early middle age, it reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s even further. (13)
7. Better Sleep
Sleep is the way our bodies rest and recover. And, in addition to elevating mood and reducing stress, research has documented the benefits of exercise to improving sleep patterns, which can help you become more alert in the daytime and also help promote more sleepiness at night. (14)
Let’s face it, if you’re regularly exercising, especially engaging in a challenging resistance training program, your body will need to rest and recover, therefore making it more likely that your sleep will improve.
It’s for the above realities that general fitness & health clients shouldn’t be looked down upon as being “satisfied with being mediocre” as I’ve heard many fitness professionals proclaim simply because these clients aren’t interested in being gym rats who are most concerned with things like their performance in the deadlift or with building a wider back.
Simply looking to stay active and improve one’s overall fitness health to, as my friends at Reebok say, “Be More Human,” while also enjoying regular, challenging exercise is a perfectly worthwhile goal to have. A goal the client-centered fitness professional is happy to help facilitate.
- Malik S, Wong ND, Franklin SS, et al. Impact of the metabolic syndrome on mortality from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and all causes in United States adults. Circulation. 2004;110(10):1245-50.
- Hunter GR, Brock DW, Byrne NM, Chandler-Laney PC, Del Corral P, Gower BA. Exercise training prevents regain of visceral fat for 1 year following weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010;18(4):690-5.
- FitzGerald SJBC, Kampert JB, Morrow JR Jr, Jackson AW, Blair SN. Muscular fitness and all-cause mortality: a prospective study. J Phys Act Health. 2004;1:7-18.
- Tanasescu M, Leitzmann MF, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. Exercise type and intensity in relation to coronary heart disease in men. JAMA. 2002;288(16):1994-2000.
- Brill PA, Macera CA, Davis DR, Blair SN, Gordon N. Muscular strength and physical function. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32(2):412-6.
- Puetz TW. Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence. Sports Med. 2006;36(9):767-80.
- Maimoun L, Sultan C. Effects of physical activity on bone remodeling. Metabolism. [Epub ahead of print]. 2010 [cited 2010 Mar 30].
- Slemenda C, Heilman DK, Brandt KD, et al. Reduced quadriceps strength relative to body weight: a risk factor for knee osteoarthritis in women? Arthritis Rheum. 1998;41(11):1951-9.
- Suominen H. Muscle training for bone strength. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2006;18(2):85-93.
- Michael Craig Miller M.D. Understanding Depression. Harvard Medical School. March 1, 2011
- Schoenfeld TJ, Rada P, et al. Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. J Neurosci. 2013 May 1;33(18):7770-7.
- Laurin D, et al. Physical activity and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly persons. Arch Neurol. 2001 Mar;58(3):498-504.
- Robert P. Friedland, et al. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have reduced activities in midlife compared with healthy control-group members. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of USA. Vol. 98 no. 6: 3440–3445
- Driver HS, Taylor SR. Exercise and sleep. Sleep Med Rev. 2000 Aug;4(4):387-402.