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5 Benefits of Resistance Training that Aren’t About Strong Muscles

heart health mental health strength training Aug 23, 2023


Being strong is a good enough reason for menopausal women to lift weights. But there’s more!


By Selene Yeager


We talk about muscle so much here at Feisty Menopause you could almost just call us Feisty Musclepause. That’s because muscle is your ticket to better performance, metabolic health, longevity, and independence. At the same time, the menopause transition is a precarious time for muscle loss and it’s harder to make and maintain this metabolic currency post menopause.


 As we’ve written about before, skeletal muscle helps improve blood sugar management and metabolic health. It helps protect your bones. It even lowers your risk for urinary incontinence and may reduce hot flashes. But that’s just the beginning. Here are five more benefits of resistance training that aren’t about strong muscles.


A Brighter Brain


It’s ironic that “musclehead” is used pejoratively because resistance training is really good for your brain. Though all exercise is good for your brain health, research finds that resistance training triggers a massive release of muscle-based proteins that help generate new connections in the brain, which have a direct impact on cognitive functioning, such as memory, thinking, and reaction time. Resistance training also stimulates the release of irisin, which is a hormone that crosses the blood-brain barrier and improves brain function and health.


As Hit Play Not Pause guest neurophysiologist Louisa Nicola explained on episode 87, “You only have to strength train three days a week to get these effects. You can literally change the function and the structure of your brain by resistance training alone.”


Improved Mood


Resistance training can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. A 2018 meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials involving 1,877 people found that those who did resistance training reported a significant reduction in depressive symptoms like low mood and feelings of worthlessness compared to those who didn’t strength train. Research also finds that strength training has an “anxiolytic” (anxiety-reducing) effect, with women being even more sensitive to the anxiety-relieving effects of resistance training than men.





Better Body Image


Feeling stronger can improve your body image. One study on both women and men participating in a progressive resistance training program 5 days a week for 12 weeks found that both sexes enjoyed significant body image improvements, and while the men’s better body image was linked only to subjective physical changes they saw in the mirror, women’s body image improvements were also linked to objective increases in strength. Being strong made them feel better about their bodies. That’s something we see every day in our communities.  


Heart Health


Lifting weights is good for your heart. Research shows that lifting at least twice a week can significantly lower blood pressure. Lifting can improve blood sugar levels, which lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease. It also can help improve total cholesterol and body composition.


Stronger Skin


A recent study reports that resistance training rejuvenates skin by reducing circulating inflammatory factors and improving the underlying health of the facial skin cells and tissues. The study included 56 healthy, sedentary, middle-aged Japanese women. After assessing the elasticity, thickness, and structure of the dermal layers in the women’s facial skin, researchers had half the women start cycling for 30 minutes, twice a week for 16 weeks while the other half followed a resistance training plan for the same amount of time. In the end, all the women saw improvements in fitness and skin health. Their skin had better elasticity and tone and there was more activity in the genes involved in the creation of skin collagen. The most profound improvements were among those who lifted weights. Resistance training also increased the thickness of the dermal layer.

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