Most people don’t know the answer to this question (even people who are self-described fitness fanatics). To be clear, they understand what drew them to strength training in the first place, but they really don’t understand the benefits of a properly performed strength-training program. This is true of “beginners” as well as most fitness zealots.
Understanding “Why” is an obvious (although often overlooked) and important place to start.
Note: The “smarter” you strength train, the more pronounced the benefit. These are not the collective benefits of exercise, physical activity, or yoga… these are the evidence-based benefits of strength training.
- Cardio-metabolic health. We often think about strength training as a means to simply improve strength, performance, and appearance, but strength training also plays a critical role in preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Every adult should engage in proper strength training for this reason alone.
- Increased bone mineral density. Stronger bones help prevent fracture.
- Prevent muscle atrophy and the age-related wasting of muscle known as sarcopenia. After about the age of 40, we progressively lose muscle. It doesn’t matter how active we are or how much cardio we do, our muscles “atrophy” (waste away) at basically the same rate as our sedentary counterparts. Strength training allows us to retain and increase our muscle tissue across the lifespan. 90-year olds can significantly increase lean muscle tissue.
- Improve functional capacity. The only true “functional training” is to train our muscles; because our muscles are what cause function.
- Improve metabolic rate. As we lose muscle, our metabolic rate goes down. William Evans Ph.D. of Duke University asserts that the reduction in our metabolism as we age is solely linked to our loss of muscle tissue. The more muscle tissue we have, the greater our metabolic rate (the number of calories we expend while we aren’t working out). Additionally, each time we strength train, we acutely increase our metabolic rate by 7-10% for the next 2-3 days.
- Improve cognitive function, enhance self-esteem, and combat depression. The oft heard and almost clichéd expression, “My workout just makes me feel better” actually has significant scientific credibility.
- Enhance athletic performance. From distance runners to golfers to football players. Proper strength training improves performance and wards off injury. Training for a marathon or an Ironman? The 15 weeks leading up to that event is the most important period for you to be engaged in evidence-based strength training.