Focusing the body and the mind
Whether you’re looking to tone up, lose weight, build muscle, increase your range of movement, increase the amount of physical exercise you do, or simply to relax, strength and weight has a number of physical and mental benefits that can significantly contribute to your overall health and wellbeing.
What is weight training?
Weight, strength training, and resistance training, can also be used interchangeably and involves using resistance to muscular contraction (i.e. making your muscles work against a weight or force), to increase the size, strength and anaerobic endurance of skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles are muscles that are attached to bones by tendons and work to support the skeleton and produce voluntary movement.
In practice, weight and strength training will differ from person to person, depending on their individual level of physical fitness. It can involve anything from lifting heavy weights (e.g., weight machines or free weights), to using resistance bands, to working with your own body weight, and can be specifically adapted to an individual’s exercise and conditioning needs and current physical limitations.
Regularly varying a resistance training program by changing the exercises you do, and progressively increasing the number of repetitions and sets, the level of intensity (weights or resistance used) and overall frequency of the sessions you do, can help to continually improve and maintain the strength and endurance gains you make.
How does weight training work?
Weight training works by putting enough stress on muscles to cause microscopic tears in muscle cells, resulting in a breakdown of muscle fibres known as “catabolism”. In response to this breakdown the body begins the biological process of repair and re-growth, known as “anabolism” – the body floods the damaged areas with muscle-growing nutrients like testosterone, protein, and other growth hormones, to help repair the muscles and make them stronger.
It’s important to note that muscles only heal and strengthen when they’re not under stress, so it’s important to have recovery time between weight and strength training workouts. That’s why our exercise physiologists and physiotherapists recommend a well-rounded training program that combines weight training sessions with aerobic training and balance and flexibility exercises.
Why is weight training good for you?
There are so many reasons why weight and strength training are good for people of every age and fitness level.
Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, produced by the federal Department of Health, recommend that adults undertake muscle strengthening activities, like strength and weight training, on at least two days per week, to help improve muscle, tendon and ligament strength and joint function, and increase bone mineral density. Health experts also recommend combining strength and weight training with aerobic exercise, to improve heart and lung function, and exercises to improve flexibility and balance.
What are the benefits of weight training?
The benefits of weight or strength training aren’t just physical – research has shown that resistance training improves mental health and wellbeing and cognitive function and helps to combat a range of health- and age-related risks.
- Weight and strength training improve physical fitness
A well-rounded exercise program that includes weight and strength training:
- Supports fat loss by increasing muscle mass, which improves metabolic rate and resting heart rate
- improves cholesterol levels
- decreases blood pressure
- improves movement control
- Weight training improve mental health and wellbeing
The relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind is something that has been intensely studied for many years, and physical exercise has long been proven to have a positive effect on mental health. However, it is only recently that more rigorous study has been undertaken – particularly in the field of neuroscience – to understand the effects of specific kinds of physical exercise on the structures and functions of the central nervous system, in relation to potential improvements to mental health and wellbeing, and exercise adherence.
This research has shown that weight and strength training offer a number of benefits to mental health and wellbeing, including:
- improved confidence and self-esteem
- relief of anxiety and depression
- improved focus
- improved sleep quality
- Weight training reduce problems associated with ageing
Research has shown that weight and strength training have positive effects on health problems associated with the ageing process, including:
- preventing bone loss and muscle wasting
- decreased risk of dementia
- improved balance
- improved cognitive function
- improved posture
- Weight and strength training reduce problems associated with chronic health conditions and disease processes,
Research has shown that weight and strength training:
- Reduce inflammation markers, especially in overweight individuals
- Improve insulin sensitivity
- Decrease blood sugar swings in those with Type 2 diabetes
- Reduce chronic lower back pain
- Reduce arthritic pain
- Decrease pain associated with fibromyalgia
Are there any risks associated with weight or strength training?
As with any exercise program there are both advantages and disadvantages to weight and strength training. Each type of exercise or equipment comes with its own problems, such as injuries from dropped weights, over-training, and overuse of specific joints or muscle groups, and the costs associated with purchasing free weights, exercise tubing or resistance machines and the space required to store them. However, as long as you’re making your muscles contract against a resistant force – be it fancy equipment, makeshift weights (think water bottles, heavy cans or bricks), or your own body weight (or that of your toddler!) – you’re engaging in weight and strength training and your body will reap the benefits.
Who can benefit from weight or strength training?
In short, anyone and everyone can benefit from incorporating resistance exercises into a new or existing exercise routine. Regardless of whether you’re a younger or older person; male or female; fit or unfit; suffering from chronic physical or mental health conditions or lack of self-esteem, or you’re physically healthy, happy and confident, the health benefits of weight and strength training are not only convincing, but also scientifically proven.
It’s important to remember that you should consult a physical health practitioner before starting any new exercise program, to ensure you move safely and undertake the right exercises for your individual physical fitness needs. If you’d like to find out more about weight and strength training and how you can incorporate it into your current or future exercise routine, the experts at Transcend Health can help design a well-rounded exercise program that suits your specific needs and goals.