5 Benefits Of Strength Training

For years, the mantra on weight loss has been "calories in, calories out," meaning if you burn more calories than you consume each day, you will lose weight. So go for that outdoor run, get on that treadmill, hop on the spin bike, and your heart rate will go up, your cardiovascular health will improve, and the calories will melt away, right? After all, cardio has been shown to curb your appetite, maintain healthy blood pressure, and boost your immune system, according to Women's Health Mag. In your mind, strength training was for the powerlifters and bodybuilders. However, you don't have to deadlift 165 lbs. to strength train, and studies now find it can be an amazing tool for both weight loss and overall health.

Also, you don't have to give up one for the other. You can keep that cardio routine you love and add strength training to your fitness program, but Quick and Dirty Tips advises that you separate the two workouts, waiting at least six hours between a cardio session and a strength session to give your body ample recovery time to see optimal results. So, what are the benefits of strength training you may have been missing out on while pedaling to your heart's content on a Peloton?

Strength training can help you build muscle

It seems simple enough. If you lift weights or use any kind of resistance during your workout, your muscles will respond by breaking down muscle tissue, prompting the body to heal the tissue by growing more muscle, hence making your body stronger and enhancing your endurance. However, don't jump right into an advanced program if strength training is new to you. "You're better off having a more basic plan that you stick to for a year than the most robust muscle-building plan that you only stick to for a month," London fitness expert Josh Silverman told Women's Health Mag.

If you build muscle, that takes you to another benefit of strength training, which is the coveted weight loss so many crave. The more muscle you have in your body, the higher your basal metabolic rate (BMR) will be. Simply put, strength training gives your metabolism a strong boost, meaning you will burn more calories throughout the day resting or doing everyday activities.

"Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so the more you gain, the more calories you'll burn — and the more likely you are to keep fat off," said physiologist Dr. Leigh Breen (via Women's Health Mag).

It can relieve anxiety and promote healthy sleep

Yes, you can put all that everyday stress in the back of your mind when you focus on your strength training routine, since something physiological happens in your body that also relieves stress. Your cortisol levels will decrease, with cortisol being the primary stress hormone in your body (via Web MD). 

If you're less stressed overall and your muscles are fatigued, that is going to lead to exhaustion and help you sleep easier and more soundly, per Runner's World. Never forget that adequate rest is always good for the body. Sleep also gives your body time to recover from training sessions, whether the session be cardio or strength. It also helps produce growth hormones, which we need throughout life. "When we are older, it helps us build lean muscle and helps our body repair when we have torn ourselves up during a hard workout," Dr. W. Christopher Winter, author of "The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It," told Everyday Health. "Growth hormone is essential for athletic recovery."

Strength training increases bone health

Modern life can take its toll on your joints and bones, even if you're doing nothing with them all day — but especially if you're doing nothing with them all day. If you sit at a desk for 8-10 hours a day typing away in front of a screen, your bones and joints can be damaged. We need to be moving and can give our bones and joints a small workout throughout the day by getting up and doing a few squats and lunges or just making time to fit in some fitness before or after work.

"Walking, jogging, lunging, squatting, and light circuits are all good examples of weight-bearing exercises that can promote bone health," Oliver Eaton, clinical director of the U.K.'s ProHealth Clinic, told Women's Health Mag.

However, don't forget that your body will always need time for recovery for optimum results. "The secret is to not go overboard -– exercising excessively can be bad for joints. Three times a week for at least half an hour is enough" Eaton advised.