While exercise has been widely acknowledged as beneficial to one's health, strength training specifically can improve overall health and quality of life. Studies have shown that strength training can have positive effects on body weight and complications of obesity, bone growth, joint health, chronic fatigue syndrome, and sleep disturbances.
Overweight or obese individuals can encounter a variety of health problems due to their weight, including high blood pressure, breathing problems (such as sleep apnea), heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and stroke. Excessive body fat may also increase the likelihood of certain mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression1.
Strength training plays an important role in weight reduction and increasing muscle mass. It has been proven to increase lean muscle tissue and decrease blood pressure and body fat. In strength training, when muscle is overloaded it will actually break down in a process called catabolism. Proteins stored in the body or from ingested food are used to once again build up these muscles in a process called anabolism2.
Metabolism is the process of both catabolism and anabolism. This process occurs throughout the day during normal activities, because muscles are active tissues that are constantly moving and expending energy. Fat, however, is a passive tissue which contains stored energy that is broken down to aid in the body's natural processes3. Studies have shown strength training can boost metabolism by up to 15 percent4, leading to further fat breakdown even after the completion of exercise.
In addition to regulating weight, strength training can slow the process of aging on bones and joints. Osteoporosis is a disease most commonly found in older adults, characterized by a loss of bone density which leads to fragile bones and risk of fractures5. Bone density can be partially restored by weight-bearing exercises such as stair climbing or squats, and strength training has been known to improve balance, which decreases the risk of falls.
Building muscle also helps protect joints from injury by improving joint stability and flexibility. Strong muscles decrease the load on weight-bearing joints, providing relief for bones and ligaments. Additional weight can also increase strain on the body during everyday activities, since muscles have to work harder to move the body. Joint arthritis is common in older adults, and the associated pain can be reduced with strength training by improving balance and strength and reducing weight6.
Decreased body fat and improved muscle health can also lead to a more comfortable lifestyle. Strength training has been used as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) because the body becomes more efficient in its processes. People with CFS report symptoms such as poor sleep, muscle and joint pain, and depression, which may be alleviated through exercise as well.
Research suggests that physical activity can be a factor in improving sleep quality8. Typically, individuals who are active throughout the day have decreased anxiety and depression, which affect the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep9. Weight loss can additionally impact conditions such as sleep apnea by reducing further stresses on the heart and lungs during both sleep and wake cycles.
Overall, strength training can provide huge benefits in reducing weight and symptoms of chronic conditions. Whether it is obesity, depression, joint pain, or poor sleep, many people have profited from a strengthening program in raising quality of life and overall health.