Strength training is back in a big way. A recent MindBody report declared it the most popular fitness genre of 2022, and increasing numbers of Gen Z movers are identifying strength training as their favorite way to work out. It’s clear more and more people are awakening to the many and varied benefits that come from getting strong.
1. Strength training improves your mental health
Many find lifting weights the ultimate mood booster. It doesn't matter whether you lift heavy or go light, studies show you’ll enjoy mental health benefits regardless – this suggests that it’s not so much about the muscular adaptations but the feeling of accomplishment and confidence that goes hand-in-hand with resistance training. There is also evidence that lifting weights can diminish the effects of anxiety and we know that strength training leads to better posture which is linked to a better mood.
2. Strength training goes hand-in-hand with a healthy heart
Even a small amount of resistance training is associated with a lower risk of heart attack or stroke. These findings came after US researchers analyzed the exercise habits and medical history of thousands of men and women over 11 years. The researchers considered how often people engaged in resistance training (not at all, once, twice, or three or more times a week) and the amount of time they dedicated to lifting (more or less than an hour each week). They also considered whether people met the recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. All of this information was assessed against medical data – specifically incidences of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths.
Remarkably, a team of US researchers found that the risk of heart attack or stroke was roughly 50 percent lower for those who lifted weights compared to those who didn’t. Those who enjoyed the greatest declines in risk lifted weights twice a week for an hour or so in total. And it seems these savvy strength trainers benefit from the reduced risk even if they don’t engage in frequent aerobic exercise.
Interestingly, although aerobic exercise is typically credited as being most beneficial for heart health, another study has highlighted that strength training could be superior. This study compared the cardiovascular risk factors (such as high blood pressure) and exercise habits of 4,000 adults, breaking the exercise into two types: static activities (strength training) and dynamic activities (running). Both types of exercise were associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors – but the static activity appeared to be most beneficial.
3. Strength training drives long-term fat-burning benefits
Strength training packs more punch than expected when it comes to calorie burn. For a long time strength training has been mistakenly perceived as being relatively ineffective when it comes to calorie burn. But fascinating research from Les Mills Lab and published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport throws that thinking on its head. The study highlights how, even though strength training typically burns fewer calories than aerobic training, the long-term response is far greater than a calorie-matched cardio workout. Therefore strength training is a more potent exercise stimulus and has a more profound effect on long-term fat burn.
4. Strength training creates healthy bones
Maintaining a high bone density level reduces the risk of fractures and osteoporosis and is fundamental to overall good health. From the age of 40 bone mineral density begins declining at an accelerated rate, studies show that low-weight, high-repetition resistance training can help mitigate the issue. After working with groups of exercisers over 27 weeks, researchers found that those who did regular strength workouts (2-3 times a week) increased bone mineral density in their arms, legs, pelvis and spine. They also saw impressive gains in squat strength, which can be directly correlated to increases in bone mineral density.
5. Strength training can give you a longer and healthier life
After spending a decade examining data from almost 100,000 adults, academics at the United States National Cancer Institute have concluded that strength training could be the most life-changing form of exercise. They found people who did some aerobic exercise benefited from a slight drop in mortality risk, but when people combined aerobic and strength training the benefits were exponential and they saw a 40 percent drop in mortality risk. Research has also shown that those who develop moderate muscle strength are 32 percent less likely to develop diabetes.
6. Strength training helps you find your healthy weight
Ground-breaking research has confirmed that strength training should be a staple component of any weight loss efforts. After exploring why long-term weight management is elusive for so many, researchers from the University of Alabama identified that loss of lean muscle tissue during weight loss bumps up the risk of weight regain in the long term. The scientists also suspect that our drive to eat may be linked to our muscle mass, as the release of myokines from muscle interact with the brain centers that manage homeostatic and hedonic appetite regulation.
POPULAR WAYS TO BUILD STRENGTH
- BODYPUMP™ is a total body strength workout that will shape and tone all major muscle groups, increase core strength, improve bone health and leave you feeling strong and fit. Find a workout or work out at home.
- Les Mills’ Strength Development is a series of new resistance training workouts that have been carefully designed to build strength in phases, based on strength and conditioning science. Try Strength Development.
- LES MILLS GRIT™ Strength fuses high-intensity interval training with barbell, weight plate and bodyweight exercises to blast all major muscle groups. Find a workout or work out at home.
- LES MILLS CORE™ is a scientific core workout for incredible strength, stability and endurance in the muscles that matter most. Find a workout or work out at home.