“Strength training is the best preventive medicine in which a human being can engage” (1).
"Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health" (2)
Here are some additional examples of important health benefits that can result from performing proper strength training.
Research shows that strength training reduces the severity of rheumatoid arthritis and improves functional and motor activity. In one study, a high intensity training workout program using exercise machines produced statistically better clinical effectiveness than remedial gymnastics for the joints. The mean strength of extension of the weak and strong knee joints increased by 87.9% and 70.5% respectively, the strength of flexion of the severely and less severely affected ankle joints increased by 84.6% and 68.8% respectively. Researchers concluded that for younger patients with rheumatoid arthritis (under 40 years of age), high intensity training with the use of exercise machines should be recommended (3).
In another study, eight subjects with rheumatoid arthritis, 8 healthy young subjects, and 8 healthy elderly subjects underwent 12 weeks of high-intensity progressive resistance training, while 6 elderly subjects performed warm-up exercises only. Fitness, body composition, energy expenditure, function, disease activity, pain, and fatigue were measured at baseline and follow-up. The researchers concluded: high-intensity strength training is feasible and safe in selected patients with well-controlled rheumatoid arthritis and leads to significant improvements in strength, pain, and fatigue without exacerbating disease activity or joint pain (4).
An arthritic joint will move more effectively if a strong muscle is controlling it, rather than a weak muscle (1).
Increased metabolic rate:
Resting metabolic rate decreases with age, largely because of an age-related decline in fat-free mass. A study of 13 healthy adults, aged 50–65 years, in which they performed heavy-resistance training for a 16-week period, demonstrated a 7.7% increase in resting metabolic rate (5).
Reduced resting blood pressure:
Medical literature reveals that properly performed strength training has been shown to retime resting blood pressure in mildly hypertensive adults without the risk of a dangerous blood pressure increase (6).
Improved blood lipid profile:
High Intensity Training has been shown to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, improving blood lipid profiles after only a few weeks of strength training (7).
Help with depression:
A study conducted over the course of ten weeks with volunteers aged 60 and above with major or minor depression or dysthymia revealed that Progressive Resistance Training was an effective antidepressant in depressed elders, while also improving strength, morale and quality of life (8).
Increased gastrointestinal transit time:
Slow gastrointestinal transit time has been associated with a higher risk of colon cancer. Strength training has shown to increase the gastrointestinal transit by as much as 56% after just three months of training (9).
Enhanced walking endurance:
Twenty-four subjects, aged 65–79 years, underwent a three-month weight training program. Participants increased their walking endurance by 38% (10).
(1) D. McGuff and J. Little, Body by Science (McGraw-Hill publishing, 2009).
(2) W. L. Westcott, “Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health,” Current Sports Medicine Reports 11, no 4 (Jul/Aug 2012): 209-216. link
(3) B.F. Hurley, S.M. Roth, “Strength training in the elderly: effects on risk factors for age-related diseases,” Sports Medicine 30, no 4 (Oct 2000): 49-68. link
(4) E.V. Orlova, D.E. Karateev, A.V. Kochetkov, T.E. Mozhar, “The comparative effectiveness of high-intensity dynamic training with the use of exercise machines and therapeutic gymnastics for the joints in the patients presenting with early rheumatoid arthritis,” Voprosi Kurortologii Fizioterapii, i Lechebnoi Fizicheskoi Kultury 2 (Mar-Apr 2013):14-9. [Russian] link
(5) R. Pratley, B. Nicklas, M. Rubin, J. Miller, A. Smith, M. Smith, B. Hurley, and A. Goldberg, "Strength Training Increases Resting Metabolic Rate and Norepinephrine Levels in Healthy 50 to 65 Year-Old Men" Journal of Applied Physiology 767 (1994): 133-37. link
(6) K. A. Harris and R. G Holly, "Physiological Response to Circuit Weight Training in Borderline Hypertensive Subjects," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 19, no. 3 (June 19, 1987): 246-52. link
E. B. Colliander and P. A. Tesch, "Blood Pressure in Resistance-Trained Athletes," Canadian Journal of Applied Sports Sciences 13, no. 1 (March 1988): 31—34. link
(7) M. Stone, D. Blessing, R. Byrd, et al., "Physiological Effects of a Short Term Resistance Training Program on Middle-Aged Untrained Men," National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal 4 (1982): 16-20.
B. Hurley, J. Ilagberg, A. Goldberg, et al., "Resistance Training Can Reduce Coronary Risk Factors Without Altering VO2max or Percent Bodyfat," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 20 (1988): 150-54. link
(8) N. Singh, K. Clements, and M. Fiatarone, "A Randomized Controlled Trial of Progressive Resistance Training in Depressed Elders," Journal of Gerontology 52A, no. 1 (1997): M27-M35. link
(9) K. Koffler, A. Menkes, A. Redmond, et al., "Strength Training Accelerates Gastrointestinal Transit in Middle-Aged and Older Men," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 24, no. 4 (1992): 415-19. link
(10) P. A. Ades, et al., "Weight Training Improves Walking Endurance in Healthy Elderly Persons," Annals of Internal Medicine 124, no. 6 (March 15, 1996): 568-72. link