Is your time in the gym just giving you benefits in your body? Or are there wider benefits to it? The societal stereotype of the typical gym goer is changing. Whereas it used to be seen as a hive of below average IQ monkeys flexing in tiny vests, these days, everyone is in there.
It is well documented that CEOs of major companies, and other similarly highly successful persons exercise daily. This shows us that the benefits of a healthy body are inextricably linked with a healthy brain.
But let’s talk about resistance training. Picking up heavy things and slamming them to the floor again.
Let’s take a look at 4 areas where the benefits of training have a clear and discernible effect on the brain.
Everybody knows somebody who suffers from anxiety. Our neurotic western lifestyles breed anxious minds that never shut off. Your sleep, work rate, and happiness can all be affected by anxiety.
This study here talks about the effects of a combination of resistance exercise and low-intensity cardio. The results were significant reductions in the level of anxiety reported in subjects.
This study was looking at long term anxiety levels. However, the study also points out that for 2 hours immediately after a resistance training session, reported anxiety levels were much lower. This is known as a “runner’s high”, or perhaps we should rename it, “lifter’s high”.
Bottom line: lifting weights can alleviate anxiety.
While it has not been proved that resistance training with young children affects their levels of depression (since their level are generally statistically low) it has been well proven in seniors.
“…the pattern of evidence suggests the theory that exercise training recruits a process which confers enduring resilience to stress.”
This may imply that while resistance training has an effect on the brain, it may not be so radical that it overrides the ability to be stressed out. The implication seems to be that other mental abilities are recruited and used to deal with stress more effectively.
There are many studies that also talk about self-image, physical mastery and other self-confidence building effects of resistance training. This shows that although difficult to measure in isolation, a person who weight trains regularly is more disposed to have a more positive mental attitude.
Since people are living longer, there is lots of research going into keeping the brain healthy. As people age, there are increased risks of cognitive decline, and many studies around resistance training aim to explore this.
This study here shows a very strong effect of resistance training on 65+ year old women. The effects of general cognitive function are very effective.
This effect has also been proven in children and teenager also. The overall executive brain function seems to improve significantly under the influence of resistance training.
A large factor in resistance training is goal setting. The idea that you are continually forcing yourself to improve is something that has huge crossover into everyday life. Many studies show that the skills learned by the goals set in resistance training are directly transferable to other aspects of life.
Why this is so important
The idea that becoming good at resistance training can improve you in other areas is amazing. Even if we discount the actual chemical or physical effects of exercise, the fact is that lessons for your entire life can be taught by lifting weights.
Resistance training is simple. There are certain rules to follow, if you observe them regularly you will succeed. What is required is discipline, patience, mental fortitude and hard work. These are skills that can be learned, improved and applied elsewhere.
The mental benefits of training are not just certain hormonal or physiological effects. The real benefits lie in creating an environment where you can learn all the skills you need to be successful in life.
Take resistance training seriously, apply those lessons elsewhere and you will succeed.
It’s that simple.