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Strength Training Benefits Part 1: 3 Incredible Perks for Your Brain and Mental Wellness

strength training benefit

Before we talk about strength training benefits. There are a lot of misconceptions about strength training that need to be disclosed, and most of them have to do with what people assume strength training actually does to your body.

Unless you’re a bodybuilder, strength training exercises from weight lifting to bodyweight movements like squats, push-ups, and planks will not make you bulk up, but they will offer a slew of other benefits — both physically, and mentally.

Here are a few examples of strength training benefits that affect your brain and mental health.

Strength Training Benefit #1 (Mental):

The 21st century life is, more often than not, hectic and stressful for most of us regardless of age. We find ourselves rushing from places to places, rushing to meet deadlines and rushing for rest. For most of us, our lives are practically lived on the go which makes us more prone to anxiety and restlessness as such. Exercise plays a vital role in alleviating this distress so that we feel more energised to tackle our lives and discover new passions which all contribute to living a meaningful life.

 

Strength Training Benefit #2 (Physiological):

Serotonin (5-HT), a hormone responsible for regulating our emotions and sleep, has been found to have increased turnover rates in marathoners compared to untrained individuals (Broocks et al., 2001). Exercise also improves the regularity of our daily lives which improves sleep and mood.

This is explained through the social zeitgeber theory proposed by Ehlers et al. (1993) which posits that environmental cues can influence our circadian rhythms.

In essence, exercise improves sleep and regulates our emotions which gives us the energy to do the things we want to do in life, with joy.

 

Strength Training Benefit #3 (Psychological):

Our conception of the “self” (e.g., self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-perception) has been positively correlated to physical activity (Biddle et al., 2019), and can be explained with Fox’s (1998) Exercise and Self-esteem Model (EXSEM) (figure 1) which posits that physical changes from exercise influences self-efficacy as perceptions of what their body can do (e.g. sport competence, physical strength) and how the body looks (e.g. body attractiveness) changes.

Exercise and Self-esteem Model

Figure 1.

Fox’s (1998) Exercise and Self-esteem Model (EXSEM)

Reprinted from. Fox, K. R. (1998). Advances in the measurement of the physical self. In Advances in sport and exercise psychology measurement (pp. 295-310). Morgantown, West Virginia: Fitness Information Technology.

 

Collins et al. (2019) have also found positive benefits with regards to the relationship between strength training and self-concept amongst the youth. Since we know our youth has a very big impact on adulthood (Shanahan, 2000), resistance training helps us build essential mental resilience that can carry over to later stages in life.

Again, that doesn’t mean no benefits are given to adults, as mentioned, mental resilience and improved self-concept can help adults build stronger relationships and live life more meaningfully.

 

“Exercise is the key not only to physical health but to peace of mind”

  • Nelson Mandela

 


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References

Biddle, S. J. H., Ciaccioni, S., Thomas, G., & Vergeer, I. (2019). Physical activity and mental health in children and adolescents: An updated review of reviews and an analysis of causality. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 42, 146–155. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychsport.2018.08.011

Broocks, A., Meyer, T., C., G., Hillmer-Vogel, U., George, A., Bartmann, U., & Bandelow, B. (2001). Effect of aerobic exercise on behavioral and neuroendocrine responses to meta-chlorophenylpiperazine and to ipsapirone in untrained healthy subjects. Psychopharmacology, 155(3), 234–241. https://doi.org/10.1007/s002130100706

Collins, H., Booth, J. N., Duncan, A., Fawkner, S., & Niven, A. (2019). The effect of resistance training interventions on ‘the self’ in youth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine – Open, 5(1), 29. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-019-0205-0

Ehlers, C. L., Kupfer, D. J., Frank, E., & Monk, T. H. (1993). Biological rhythms and depression: The role of zeitgebers and zeitstorers. Depression, 1(6), 285–293. https://doi.org/10.1002/depr.3050010602

Fox, K. R. (1998). Advances in the measurement of the physical self. In Advances in sport and exercise psychology measurement (pp. 295-310). Morgantown, West Virginia: Fitness Information Technology.