By Joan Swart
Few would dispute that regular strength training if done correctly and within safe limits, is beneficial to physical health. The psychological benefits of strength training may be less well-known, but they are equally important to develop and maintain a satisfying lifestyle. Whether a person exercises with weights to increase strength, tone their physique, build muscle volume, improve endurance, or lose weight, an effective weight training program can reduce the risk of disease across a broad range of physical aspects, such as:
- Reduces low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol
- Reduces the risk of diabetes and insulin needs
- Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Lower high blood pressure
- Reduces high estrogen levels linked to an increased risk of breast cancer
- Builds bone mass, thereby minimizes the risk of osteoporosis
- Reduces the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS
- Strengthens immunity
- Decreases the risk of colds and flu
- Reduces the release of hormones linked to anxiety and stress
In addition to the many positive physical effects of strength training, there are five major psychological benefits too, which help a person live a more fulfilling and happy life. Stress and anxiety are factors that underlie most distress and areas on dysfunctions that prevent people from achieving their potential and managing their emotions and behavior to benefit interpersonal relationships.
#1 – “Feel good” hormones
A good exercise session is instrumental in stimulating the release of natural hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Endorphins have a pain-relieving and anti-depressant effect, which reduces stress and produces something akin to a euphoric effect meant to hinder or block pain signals during periods of strenuous exercise. Dopamine plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior by creating a positive anticipation and improving moods. Another natural brain chemical, serotonin, is associated with elevated moods and regulating appetite and the circadian (sleep/wake) cycle, which are essential components of a healthy lifestyle. Finally, norepinephrine helps enhances the body’s ability to respond to stress, thereby working against depression and anxiety. These hormones that are naturally released during exercise work together to reduce stress and improve health and moods.
#2 – A sense of achievement
A training program is, in essence, a set of short- and long-term goals with a roadmap to help you get there. Any personal best or progress along the way is guaranteed to give you a sense of confidence that you are on the right track and achieving something positive. Thereby, you gain confidence and self-esteem, which will shine through in other areas of your life as well.
#3 – Setting goals
Embarking on a training program means that a person has objectives in mind and are willing to invest effort in an organized way to achieve it. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build strength, look better or compete in a sporting event, a series of smaller, definitive goals that lead up to the overall objectives is usually set. Not only can progress be measured throughout, but motivation is maintained as well. Goal-directed behavior is a well-known element of balanced and functional behavior that is associated with positive psychology.
#4 – Improves sleep
By reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, exercise, including strength training, sleep quality improves significantly. A study has shown that upper (i.e. bench press) and lower (i.e. leg press) body strength exercises done by a group of older adults increased their sleep quality by 38 percent, presumably as sleep serves body restoration.
#5 – Healthier eating habits
Similarly, strenuous exercise, in particular, resistance training, necessitates the consumption of adequate amounts of calories and nutrients to enable the body to restore and utilize the benefits without accumulating any harmful effects. The best to accomplish this is to develop a balanced and regular meal plan, which becomes easier to follow and maintain as the body instinctively works toward restoration.
In addition to the physical benefits of strength training, these five psychological advantages help improve the quality of life by reducing stress, providing goals and a sense of achievement, and enabling better sleep and eating habits. Thereby, by doing regular resistance or weight training, a person reaps the benefits in almost all aspects of the physical and psychological health.