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Resistance is Not Futile

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Photo by Anna Shvets.

More and more studies are piling on the good news about the benefits of resistance training, the kind of exercise that improves muscular strength, whether it be shredding at the gym with the pros, or using simple bodyweight exercises in a home practice.

It has been known for a while that creating stress on the bone through resistance training can help stop or even reverse age-related bone loss. Furthermore, those same efforts also help elders avoid frailty by reversing age-related sarcopenia, or muscle loss.

OK boomers, good to know, but what about everyone else? Now studies of resistance training are showing positive effects through all life stages for various health issues.

Mental health benefits

Resistance training can help with anxiety and depression.

In February, a study out of the University of Limerick in Ireland and Iowa State University showed that resistance training can help with anxiety and depression and could be prescribed in addition to or in lieu of other types of therapy for these skyrocketing disorders. It is thought that the conscious breath awareness utilized in strength training is part of what contributes calming and soothing effects to sufferers of anxiety and depression.

A 2022 study out of Canada showed considerable overlap in benefits of resistance training with aerobic training (the kind of exercise that gets the heart rate up, long known to benefit the heart and lungs), causing the study authors to conclude that resistance training should be sharing the front seat with aerobic training recommendations in terms of improving many aspects of health. Where once cardio reigned supreme, now strength is known to be just as beneficial. A cardio-alone exercise regimen is seen more and more to be less than optimal.

Disease prevention

Higher body mass, the result of resistance training, is shown to improve survival in cancer patients and also results in fewer deleterious effects from chemotherapy and radiation. In older patients, when cachexia (disease-related muscle loss) might be combined with sarcopenia, resistance training improves positive outcomes significantly and even reduces the chances of cancer recurrence.

Combatting obesity and diabetes

The Canadian study cites a meta-analysis supporting the findings that resistance training may be just as effective as aerobic training when it comes to having positive effects on obesity and type 2 diabetes. Resistance helps with fat loss in a way previously believed to be the sole domain of aerobic training.

Cognitive function and mood elevation

The study goes on to report that cognitive function is also improved through resistance training and is accompanied by mood elevation and even improved sleep.

Cardiovascular health

Many of the Canadian study’s findings are backed up by a 2023 update of a 2007 report by the American Heart Association. The update states that resistance training has been shown to lower resting blood pressure in both healthy and at-risk patients. Lower fasting blood sugar numbers and lower cholesterol numbers are also being noticed among positive effects.

Reducing health risks associated with obesity

Fat mass reduction, hand in hand with muscle mass increase, is believed to have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors commonly associated with obesity, even though weight loss itself may not be significant.

Other studies have shown that resistance training reduces abdominal fat stores linked to many health issues already mentioned. Building strength is also linked to lowering the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and some types of cancer.

Improving joint health

Another benefit of getting stronger is a general reduced risk of injury because the training results in improved joint function, greater range of motion, and improved body awareness. Improved strength in the legs and core removes stress from the spine. Back pain and injury are responsible for general poor health in 25% of sufferers. As stronger legs support the spine, back pain diminishes and general health can improve. Balance also improves.

Enhancing self-esteem and confidence

Resistance training can improve self-esteem and body image. Setting and achieving goals, as well as being able to observe progress quite readily are common aspects of a resistance program and have been shown to lead to a more positive body image and greater general confidence. This effect has been especially noted in pre-teens and teens who typically tend to suffer from poor physical self-esteem.

Some studies have even shown possible links between resistance training and reduction of general inflammation, a condition believed more and more to be at the root of many health issues.

DIY home gym

A good program can be carried out in as little as 30-45 minutes 3 times a week.

Even better is the news that anyone can do resistance training right in one’s own home. There is no need to join a gym and no more equipment than your own bodyweight is needed to create an effective program. Of course, if being a gym rat is your preference, you will be able to work in that type of setting with a trainer or independently using a wide variety of equipment and machines.

The resources for how to DIY your home or gym program are extensive and can be found all over the internet, in libraries, and through fitness professionals in gym or studio settings. A good program can be carried out in as little as 30-45 minutes 3 times a week. It may take a few sessions to establish a routine if you are new to this type of exercise, but you will begin to feel results in as little as two weeks if you are working all major muscle groups 2-3 times per week. As results accumulate you will be able to challenge yourself by increasing the amount of resistance you are using. Everyday tasks like carrying firewood or groceries, going up or down stairs, gardening, etc will begin to feel easier and easier as you progress.

If you feel very sore the next day it might be that you overdid it. Ideally, one day of rest is always taken between strength sessions. One day should allow the soreness to resolve so that you can resume your routine the next day. Mild soreness is to be expected, even welcomed, as it is a sign you have fatigued the tissue sufficiently to send the signal that the muscle needs to grow to meet its new demands. The body obliges by adding mass to the muscle, making it stronger.

Local exercise classes

If you need support to get started, SoHum Health offers two local options free of charge.

If you need support to get started, SoHum Health offers two local options free of charge. Stephanie Finch teaches Tabata in person and on Zoom. Tabata is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout that incorporates cardio with resistance training in very brief intervals of less than 60 seconds with short rest periods built into the cycles. The workout is suitable for all levels, whether you are a seasoned exerciser or are just getting started. The interval format builds cardio capacity as well as muscular strength. Studies show positive results from the combination of resistance and cardio training. Stephanie’s classes are in-person at 5:30 pm at Lost Coast Fitness (up in the Meadows, 1271 Evergreen Road) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Zoom classes are offered Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 5:30. Contact Stephanie at for more information, or drop in any time to her in-person classes. All equipment needed is provided at the studio.

Ann Constantino teaches Bones, Balance, and Strength Zoom classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 am. Tuesday is floor-based and Thursday is chair-based. These are all-level classes for strength, mobility, balance, and bone-building with very little cardio, although strong leg work generally gets the heart rate up somewhat. Contact Ann for more information at There is a YouTube playlist of over 400 recorded Zoom classes to choose from, which can be accessed by contacting Ann.

Whether you choose to take advantage of the local offerings or prefer to train independently, make resistance training a regular part of your routine, and reap the many physical and mental health benefits of being strong.

Ann Constantino, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.