You may already know that it’s important to include strength training in your regular exercise routine, but do you know why? Recent research is helping us understand how our muscles are used in a workout and why strength training can benefit every area of our body.
The term ‘strength training’ refers to exercises that build muscle mass, including those that use your body weight as resistance such as pushups, crunches, squats and Pilates. It also includes free weights such as dumbbells and weights machines often found in gyms.
Here are just a few of the lesser-known benefits of building strong muscles.
When we exercise, our muscles release chemicals called myokines, which have a major influence on every system in the body, including the immune system. They also have a positive effect on our organs and can reduce inflammation. In fact, research suggests that myokines are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with regular exercise, such as increased energy, strength and improved resistance to disease.
One study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that resistance training at a moderate intensity may help increase the levels of myokines in the blood more than exercises that don’t build muscle strength as the main goal.
Exercise also increases the levels of irisin in our bloodstream, which helps turn ‘white fat’ that is stored energy, into ‘brown fat’ that is burned off throughout the day.
We can increase our levels of irisin by strengthening our muscles during physical activity. Research has shown that people with higher levels of irisin in their blood are likely to enjoy a longer life, thanks to healthier chromosomes that tend to deteriorate as we age.
Although men have significantly higher levels of testosterone, women also have small amounts of this important hormone, which supports bone density, muscle growth and metabolism. Maintaining healthy levels of testosterone in women has been shown to improve mood, energy and wellbeing, regardless of age1.
Endurance and resistance exercises can significantly increase your testosterone levels, especially just after exercise. Among other health benefits, it can help you maintain a healthy body weight and composition2, so you get the most out of your workout.
The hormone Peptide YY helps your brain reduce appetite and make you feel fuller after a meal. Exercise increases the levels of Peptide YY in the body, which is why you may feel less hungry after a workout. According to a study published in the journal 'Appetite', weight-bearing exercises such as skipping may increase Peptide YY levels more than non-weight bearing activities such as cycling or swimming.
A healthy balance of aerobic and strength training exercises will make sure you are supporting every area of your body and maintaining overall health and wellbeing.
What strength or resistance training exercises do you enjoy? We’d love to hear your tips.
 Davis SR. Androgens and female sexuality. J Gend Specif Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;3(1):36-40.
 Nindl BC, Kraemer WJ, Gotshalk LA, et al. Testosterone responses after resistance exercise in women: influence of regional fat distribution. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Dec;11(4):451-65.