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Resistance Training Does More than Build Muscle

As clinicians, we know resistance training is extremely beneficial for health. Unfortunately, many people don’t know the extent of those benefits. Take a minute and write down all of the benefits of resistance exercise. How many did you write? What were the first benefits you recorded. The most common benefits associated with resistance exercise are improvements in strength and muscle mass. What about the benefits to cognitive, cardiac, metabolic, and mitochondrial function, the reductions in fall risk and fat mass, and the gains in mobility, power, and endurance? Most of the latter benefits are associated exclusively with aerobic training. Aerobic training is integral for health (VO2 max is a greater predictor of mortality than strength) but that doesn’t mean we can’t gain a wide variety of health benefits from resistance training.

This review briefly looks at the multitude of health benefits provided by resistance training. High-intensity and high-volume resistance training is very beneficial for health. Strength is one of the primary predictors of mortality. Muscle mass is key for maintaining function and it raises the floor and ceiling of strength development. There are other key adaptations that are achieved through lower intensities. For example, power and balance are the primary factors associated with falls, and they are developed with lighter weights. Power can be developed with heavy weights, but the sweet spot appears to be closer to 30% of 1 rep max. Cognitive function can be improved with resistance training or aerobic training, the key is consistency and long-term adherence. You will find consistency is the key to success across the board. Low intensity resistance training may be a good way to establish exercise habits. Regardless of the approach taken, to optimize health, resistance training and aerobic training should be performed (PA guidelines).

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