There are few things that feel better than the endorphin-filled rush of a killer sweat session. But in the hecticness of everyday life, it’s all too easy to forget about the joy of working out and start seeing it as a “have to” rather than a “want to.”
One reason for our depletable motivation might be our motives for hitting the gym in the first place. “I think people are familiar with exercise as a means of weight loss, but not as many realize all of the ‘gains’ you can get with a consistent fitness routine,” says Orangetheory’s director of fitness design Rachel Vaziralli.
So what if we shifted the way we thought about our results? Researchers have found that maintaining a workout routine makes people feel better–about their bodies, their health, their capabilities, and their overall quality of life–even if their weight ultimately doesn’t change. And consistent exercisers who see working out as part of their lifestyle, rather than as a way to change their appearance? Well they have the most success keeping weight off long-term.
Celebrating the “gains” from our workouts–whether immediate or long-term–can help fuel motivation and make the process more enjoyable. “It’s about not only increasing your lifespan (adding more years to your life), but also your health-span–feeling strong, energized, and moving well through those years,” says Vaziralli.
Here are seven of the most noteworthy wins of strength training, backed by science.
Getting strong can actually help make you more flexible. (A recent review found strength training was as effective at increasing range of motion as stretching.) The key is making sure you’re completing the full range of motion of an exercise. This ensures you’re utilizing your full potential around a joint, which will help you get the most mobility and flexibility.
And all that improved range of motion? It can also help reinforce strength around major joints like your knees, hips, and ankles to protect you against injury. In fact, a scientific review of 7,738 athletes found strength-training programs reduced the risk of injury by 33%.
Multiple studies have shown that regular resistance training can decrease blood pressure, lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and improve blood circulation by strengthening the heart and blood vessels. And it doesn’t take a lot to get the boost: Just one hour of weight training a week may reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by 40-70%.
One study found that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise immediately increases attention and focus–with the boost lasting up to an hour. There’s a cumulative impact, too: Increasing physical activity helps preserve brain power by improving blood flow to the brain and increasing a protein that supports long-term memory and overall cognitive health.
Working out helps zap stress and anxiety while regulating your body temperature, a powerful combo that can help you catch more restful shut-eye. One study found that participants who engaged in moderately intense exercise for a total of 150 minutes a week were able to fall asleep faster and felt more alert during the day–no matter what time of day they exercised.
Better Mental Health
Regular weight training may boost your mood and improve your mental health. According to the researchers, working out–particularly, moderate- to high-intensity resistance training–is hugely beneficial for improving symptoms of poor mental health. In fact, it was as or more effective at alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress than counseling or medications.
Research has shown a significant link between strength training and positive body image, including body satisfaction, appearance, and social physique anxiety (or the perception of judgment from others). Strength training can help you overcome challenges, work toward a goal, and increase your self-efficacy–all of which can have a powerful ripple effect. “We’ve heard from members who say Orangetheory fitness studios were a safe space for them to push themselves, and escape realities of what was going on in their daily lives,” says Vaziralli. “The workouts helped them develop confidence that they could take outside of the studio.”
A More Vibrant Life
The strength you gain in a fitness class has benefits far beyond being able to bust out one more rep. Gaining strength allows you to perform daily tasks much easier, like carrying heavy groceries or running around with your kids. It also might be one of the most effective tools for slowing–and improving–the aging process. People who exercise report greater levels of excitement and enthusiasm as they age, and numerous studies have linked strength training in older adults to an increase in quality of life–aka a person’s perceived physical and mental well-being. Not to mention, researchers have found that exercising for at least 150 minutes a week could add a whopping seven years to your life.
Ready to embrace the benefits of strength training today? Orangetheory’s new Strength 50 classes are designed to help members build muscle mass, improve form and get stronger – both physically and mentally. Visit orangetheory.com or the Orangetheory app to try your first Strength 50 class free.