Most of us get into strength training because we want to add muscle and lose fat. What we don’t realize are all the other underlying benefits we don’t even realize it’s bringing to us. It’s nice to look good with your shirt off, and show people the new you, but at the end of the day if you want longevity in your strength training journey, there has to be more to it.
Better Functioning Brain
One great thing about resistance training is the way it changes your brain. You can’t add all the muscle, and move all the weights around without a strong mind. Incorporating strength training into your life will sharpen your mind, give you better memory recall, increase your ability to learn, and just clear your mind. It has been shown when people exercise there is an increase in BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which increases your ability to learn new things.
Your proprioception also increases as you progress. You learn how your body operates in a given space. You can change up the exercises so much to continually challenge and strengthen your mind to handle any twists and turns that come your way.
Effect On Libido and Hormones
Nothing (naturally) will have as great of an effect on your testosterone as lifting weights. It sends such a strong signal to increase the amount of free testosterone in the body, as well as androgen receptors to receive it. For women, nothing will balance their progesterone to estrogen hormones better than working out. Doctor’s these days are now starting to recommend consistent strength training to help men and women repair their imbalances.
I’ve had clients unexplainably tell me how they just feel these extra pep in their step. Some even talk about how their libido has gone up.
Changes in Mood
Depression is almost commonplace in this day and age. Adding resistance training has been shown to be as effective as some medicine in lowering mild to moderate forms of depression. That’s insane! We should always be seeking methods to help our mind and bodies that won’t have nasty side effects if we can help it. They aren’t quite sure as to why that is, but they think it might have something to do with the increases in dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin and all the other feel good hormones.
When you are depressed the science shows your hippocampus (responsible for emotion) shrinks. Lifting weights will help grow the hippocampus which allows for a better mood overall. It’s like upgrading your software along with your hardware. The beauty of this even if you don’t have any mental health issues is it improves your starting baseline overall. Try and see how you feel on days you don’t workout vs the days you do. I know I feel more lethargic and less inclined to do anything.
It also gets rid of your distracted mind. Sometimes I’ll get rare, but moderate bouts of anxiety and all day it just clouds my mind. I even head to the gym thinking I'm wasting my time and almost don’t want to go. The opposite happens. The focus that I need in the gym to move the heavy weight is so strong, that it gives me that much needed separation from that anxiety so that when I am done working out I’m able to reassess everything and come back with a clearer head. I usually find it subsides by then.
Boosts Your Immunity
Having muscle, and being in shape is one of the best insurance policies you can have against fighting off disease. By keeping your body healthy, your muscles become more insulin sensitive and optimize the utilization of the food you are putting inside. You become metabolically flexible to make the best use of your food rather than store it all as fat and feel brain fog. Not to mention, the person with more muscle burns MORE calories at rest than the person with less.
Another great benefit is healing from injury. Because we are constantly putting our body against a stress (such as heavier weights), our bones are getting stronger and denser, preventing the onset of osteoporosis, which decreases our chance of breaking something when we fall (especially as we get older). If we do get injured, the healing process is always quicker in the individual who works out consistently.
Empowering and Confidence
One of my favorite things about lifting in the gym is the carryover to real life. I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally. The accomplishment of pushing heavier weight than you did the week before even when you think you might not be able to do it. Learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
What we learn in the gym applies directly to life; it takes hard work to get it done, a consistency in order to reap the rewards, and of course, there will always be setbacks you need to learn to overcome. I also love that the results are tangible. You can directly see week to week, if you have made yourself better than the week before. It may not happen EVERY week, but over a timeline you can see progress and adjust if you need to. There’s also countless ways to strength train that will forever challenge and stimulate your body so that your mind stays sharp and you are always ready to face a new challenge.