6 Reasons Strength Training is So Important

We all know there are many health benefits that come with exercising, but why is strength training so important specifically? Let us explain.

6 Reasons Strength Training is So Important

We all know there are many health benefits that come with exercising, but why is strength training so important specifically? Let us explain.

Let’s talk strength training shall we?

Strength training, also known as resistance training, is any form of exercise that involves using weight or resistance to help build muscle mass and strength.

This resistance can come in the form of equipment and/or body weight and involve exercises such as:

  • Squats

  • Push-ups

  • Lunges

  • Lifting weights

  • Using resistance bands

  • Pull-ups

Strength training can also be incidental, like undertaking daily activities including lifting boxes, digging in the garden or carrying grocery bags. In this article, we’ll be focusing on strength training in the form of weighted exercises.

The benefits of strength training

Of course the first benefit you’re probably thinking of is building muscle and getting stronger - and you’re absolutely right!

But there are actually many more health benefits that come with strength training.

1. Strength training protects your bones

The physical benefits of strength training aren’t solely related to your muscles, but your bones too.

Weight-bearing exercises put what’s called ‘temporary stress’ on your bones, which sounds scary but it’s actually a good thing! This sends a message to the bone-building cells to rebuild stronger bones [1][2]. As we know, having strong bones is extremely important in reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures as you age [3].

A 2017 study also found that two, 30 minute high-intensity sessions of resistance training improved bone density, structure and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass, without any negative effects [4].

If you have arthritis or fibromyalgia, having a strength training program tailored to you may help ease pressure on your joints and help relieve pain. Be sure to speak to a qualified fitness professional and your doctor before starting any new form of training.

2. Strength training can reduce body fat

Building muscle increases your metabolic rate for up to 72 hours post-exercise, which means you can burn more calories when you’re in a resting state throughout the day [5][6][7], this is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

When you’re burning more calories, you’re burning fat. Many studies have shown that strength training is particularly helpful for reducing abdominal fat, as well as total body fat [8][9][10].

3. Strength training can help you sleep better

Ensuring you’re not only getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, but that it’s quality sleep, is important in maintaining both physical and mental health.

According to new research by the American Heart Association presented in 2022, resistance training may help improve your sleep, potentially more-so than cardio training too [11].

So how exactly?

Well, one explanation is that following a resistance workout the body produces a chemical called adenosine, which promotes sleep.

“Adenosine binds to cellular receptors, inhibiting neural activity and causing drowsiness,” Alicia Pate, PhD, associate professor of medical anatomy and physiology at University Saint Louis tells Healthine.“ A 2017 review finds that chronic resistance exercise improves all aspects of sleep, with the greatest benefit being sleep quality.”

Sleep also promotes muscle repair, so the more exercise your body ensures, it could encourage deeper, longer sleep.

4. Strength training can boost mental wellbeing

According to research in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, strength training can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and therefore positively impact mental wellbeing [12].

Like with any form of exercise, strength training promotes the release of endorphins (happy hormones!)

Keep in mind, getting better sleep which, we mentioned above as a benefit of strength training, also contributes to improved mood!

5. Strength training can help prevent and manage chronic disease

A number of studies have indicated that strength training can help to ease symptoms associated with chronic conditions including neuromuscular disorders, HIV, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers [13, 14].

Strength training also reduces your risk of heart disease. One 2021 study found that combining strength training with aerobic exercise is more effective in heart disease rehabilitation [15] Strength training also helps with blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

6. Strength training may reduce incontinence symptoms

Contrary to what many people believe, strength training can be beneficial in managing incontinence - when done right!

One study investigated the effect of a 12 week progressive resistance training program on urinary incontinence and pelvic floor muscle strength in women. It found that there was a significant reduction in the Incontinence Severity Index and the frequency of urinary incontinence [16]. There was also an increase in pelvic floor muscle strength.

Another recent study found that 8 per cent of women no longer experienced urinary leakage during their daily life after performing resistance training combined with kegel training targeting the pelvic floor muscles [17].

It was also found that resistance training alone was helpful in reducing stress incontinence when appropriate bracing techniques and supervision from a qualified trainer were used during weight lifting sessions.

If you experience urinary incontinence and want to take up more strength training, we recommend seeking the guidance of a pelvic physio and/or a qualified fitness professional to tailor a program to your specific needs and fitness level.

We also have some helpful pelvic floor exercises for beginners that are safe to try at home.

If you’re worried about experiencing urinary leaks at the gym, don’t worry, we have a full range of incontinence products to help keep you comfortable and confident, no matter your level of incontinence.

Is weight lifting bad for pelvic floor muscles?

While we’ve discussed how strength training can be a beneficial part of managing incontinence symptoms, there are instances where it can be damaging.

Straining when lifting weights that are too heavy can put pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and potentially compromise them, which if you experience UI already is what you want to avoid!

Adjusting the amount of weight you're lifting and ensuring you aren’t straining when doing so is going to help you protect and strengthen your pelvic floor.

The Continence Foundation of Australia also recommends to lift and engage your pelvic floor before you do any exercises that push your pelvic floor down - like core strength exercises, or weight lifting as mentioned above. Also remember to breathe!

If you are experiencing urinary incontinence or prolapse, avoid full squats and keep your legs no more than shoulder-width apart if doing half-squats.

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