The more muscle you have, the easier it will be to lose weight. But strength training has other health benefits too, like improved memory and better blood sugar regulation. Don’t be afraid to reach for those dumbbells — lifting weights does great things for your mind and body. Along with a leaner physique, here are the most beneficial health bonuses you’ll get from strength training.
1. Your heart will be stronger.
Heart health from lifting weights? Although cardio is recommended for a healthy heart, you can get your heart working without the running shoes. A study from Appalachian State University found that resistance exercise (such as lifting weights) also has cardiovascular health benefits, including lower blood pressure.
“Just as we once learned that people with heart disease benefited from aerobic exercise, we are now learning that guided, moderate weight training also has significant benefits,” Mark Williams, PhD, of Creighton University School of Medicine, told Web MD. AHA now recommends strength training, aiming to exercise each muscle group, at least twice per week.
2. It will improve your memory.
Your body isn’t the only thing that’s getting stronger when you hit the weights. Strength training improves your memory too. Research in the Journal of Aging Research has shown that not only does resistance training improve your memory, it may also reverse cognitive decline in the elderly. The participants that were weight training during the study performed better on almost all of the cognitive tests after six months than they had previously done.
Another study, published in Acta Psychologica, reported that a single, brief session of resistance exercise done immediately after a visual learning task enhances episodic memory by about 10%. “Where previously we had seen positive associations between aerobic activity, particularly walking, and cognitive health, these latest studies show that resistance training is emerging as particularly valuable for older adults,” said Dr. William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, in a statement.
Putting off “senior moments” as long as possible is a good reason to hit the gym. Seriously. You probably want to start lifting weights.
3. It controls your blood sugar.
Twenty-nine million people in the United States — that’s 9.3% of the population — suffer from diabetes. Another 86 million adults — more than one in three U.S. adults — have prediabetes, where their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes.
Research has found an interesting connection between weight lifting and a lower risk of diabetes. The study, published in Nature Medicine, reported that white muscle may actually keep blood sugar levels in check. White muscle is more prevalent among those who use resistance training, where short bursts of energy are critical.
Weight lifting also improves the sensitivity of insulin receptors, so that muscle cells can absorb their fuel, glucose, more easily. This process results almost immediately from doing resistance exercise, and the effect can last for days, according to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. Resistance training is a great way to promote proper blood sugar regulation, helping to control or avoid diabetes. Plus, it’ll be easier to drop any extra pounds.
4. It helps you sleep well.
Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape. But, what if you have trouble sleeping? Lifting weights can help you with that too. Research from the Sport Research Intelligence Sportive has shown that people with sleep disorders show a 30% improvement in sleep from regular resistance training. These results appear to become most effective after 8 to 10 weeks of consistent resistance training.
You don’t have to suffer from a sleeping disorder to benefit from a couple sessions of weight training. Another study found that light sleepers who preformed resistance exercises were less likely to wake up in the middle of the night. It’s a win-win: Along with all the other benefits that come with lifting weights, you’ll be getting better sleep — just enough time to let your muscles recover properly! One more reason to add strength training into your routine.