5 Reasons Resistance Training Belongs in Your Workout Routine

woman using TRX

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Although you might prefer cardiovascular exercise like walking, running, swimming or cycling, you might want to consider resistance training as an addition to your fitness routine. Resistance training offers significant health benefits and helps you build muscle, which can make it easier for you to perform everyday tasks.

Plus, you don’t need an expensive gym membership to accomplish your goals. In fact, some people enjoy doing resistance training in their own home. You simply need to move your limbs against any form of resistance like your own body weight. If you want more variety or even a bit of a challenge, you could also try resistance bands, free weights, or suspension equipment like the TRX.

Resistance training—which is sometimes called strength training or weight training— involves using resistance to build the strength, anaerobic endurance, and muscle. Any well-rounded fitness program includes strength training because it improves joint function, builds bone density, and helps build muscle.

If you stick to a resistance training program, you will begin to notice that you are getting stronger, have more flexibility, and have improved balance. You also can see the benefits of resistance training in practical ways, too, like having more strength for everyday activities, seeing improvements in your running or walking pace, and slowing the aging process.

If you are wondering how you might benefit from resistance training, read on. Below we discuss five ways you can see a measurable impact from resistance training and why it belongs in your workout routine. 

Build Muscle Strength and Improve Flexibility

Most people recognize that resistance training will build muscle strength and increase the size and definition of your muscles, but few recognize the impact that building muscle strength can have on your daily life. In fact, you use your muscles for just about every activity you do. From climbing stairs to chasing after your kids, your muscles help you along the way.

Yet, adults who do not exercise can experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass each decade, along with an accumulation of body fat and a slowing metabolism. This muscle loss can eventually make it difficult to perform everyday tasks like opening jars, standing from a seated position, carrying groceries, and pulling a suitcase.

The best way to address this loss of strength—or boost your current strength—is to engage in a resistance training program. In fact, one study found that in just 10 weeks of resistance training, participants were able to improve their physical performance, movement control, walking speed, and functional independence.

Plus, resistance training also has an impact on flexibility. Not only will you notice an increase in your range of motion (ROM), but it also allows you to develop greater mobility. This is especially important for people with weaker muscles who tend to have lower flexibility and ROM.

What's more, a recent review comparing stretching with resistance training found they were equally effective at increasing ROM. So, while stretching is important and useful, you can also improve flexibility with resistance training as well.

Recommendations

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should aim for a minimum of 2 days of resistance training each week. Incorporate exercises that target all the major muscle groups of your body—legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. These exercises should be done in addition to physical activities like walking, running, swimming, or cycling.

To maximize the health benefits, the CDC recommends doing muscle-strengthening exercises to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help. They also recommend 8 to 12 repetitions per activity, which counts as one set. Ideally, you should aim for 2 or 3 sets.

Reduce Disease Risk

When most people think of about their heart health or reducing disease risk, they think of cardiovascular exercises. But resistance training plays a role in reducing your risk of developing certain diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

It also can improve your heart health. In fact, one study found that lifting weights for about 1 hour per week can reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 40% to 70%. The same study found that people engaging in 1 hour per week of resistance training also had a 29% lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 32% lower chance of developing high cholesterol.

Meanwhile, a review on the medicinal effects of resistance training suggests that weight training could also help prevent type 2 diabetes by decreasing body fat percentage, increasing the density of your glucose transporter (a membrane protein that moves glucose), and improving insulin sensitivity. The review also states that strength training can reduce resting blood pressure, decrease LDL, the bad cholesterol, and increase HDL, the good cholesterol.

Improve Balance and Bone Density

When you engage in resistance training, you not only improve your balance and posture but also increase your bone density. These improvements are particularly important because they can help prevent injury and chronic pain. They also are important as you age.

In a study on balance improvement, 50 seniors were assigned to a training or control group. A randomized controlled trial compared strengthening exercise and balance function by having the training group perform leg extensions and curl exercises throughout a 12-week period. Results showed that the training group had significantly improved balance compared to the baseline.

Resistance training also can have a positive impact on your bone strength and density. In fact, according to a study in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine just 12 weeks of strength training with squats increased the bone density of the lower spine and thigh bone by 2.9% and 4.9%, respectively.

Manage Weight and Boost Metabolism

Weight gain is often seen as a natural part of the aging process, but resistance training can reduce weight gain as well as help you manage weight. In fact, in a review on the effects of strength training, researchers found 10 weeks of resistance training could decrease weight gain by almost four pounds and increase your resting metabolic rate by 7%.

This boost in metabolism comes from building muscle, which increases your metabolic rate. Additionally, muscles tend to be more efficient metabolically than body fat. So replacing body fat with muscle allows you to burn more calories at rest.

But the benefits do not end there. Resistance training also increases your metabolic rate to 72 hours after you complete. your exercises. This means you are still burning calories hours and sometimes even days after your workout.

Improve Mental Health

Resistance training also can have a positive impact on mental health. For instance, research indicates that people with mild to moderate depression who participate in resistance training two times per week saw reductions in their symptoms compared to those who did not engage in resistance training.

Plus, you do not have to lift heavy weights or train every day to see the benefits. A review published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology indicates that using low to moderately heavy weights that are lighter than 70% of what you can lift for one rep has the greatest effects on anxiety.

Strength training also may help increase self-esteem. It also promotes the release of mood-boosting endorphins, which can play a role in a positive mood.

A Word From Verywell

Resistance training can provide innumerable benefits to your health and help make everyday activities easier, such as picking up your groceries, doing yard work, and stepping out of bed without straining your back. It also can reduce disease risk, improve mental health, and give you more balance and stability. For these reasons, you should consider adding resistance training to your routine.

But before you start any weight training regimen, speak with a healthcare professional for advice, especially if you have experienced any injuries in the past. As for guidance on proper strength training movements, a certified personal trainer can show you how to best set up a routine and make any necessary adjustments.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of resistance training?

    Resistance training can offer health benefits including staving off disease, building muscle strength, improving balance, and decreasing weight.
    With muscle strength, you can perform everyday activities with less strain on
    your body and incur injuries less often.

  • Why is strength training important?

    Strength training can promote bone development, reduce low back pain, reverse certain aging factors, and lower discomfort with arthritis and fibromyalgia. Strength training can also help make everyday activities injury free.

  • How often should I do resistance training?

    A research study showed that resistance training for at least 30 minutes per week resulted in a reduced risk of cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks). You can perform resistance training up to six times per week, as long as you do not stress your body. Speaking with a health and fitness professional can help you design an appropriate training program for your fitness level.

  • When is the best time to do resistance training?

    The best time to do resistance training is determined by age, health, circadian rhythm, and lifestyle habits—it is individual to every person. Sport researchers suggest that exercise performance is related to body temperature, which peaks around early evening for the majority of people. But if you are someone who works or sleeps during this time, you should do your resistance training when you feel it works best for your schedule.

17 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."