What are the benefits of resistance training?

Resistance training can increase muscle mass, protect bone mineral density, and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Our evidence-based analysis features 18 unique references to scientific papers.

Written by Kamal Patel
Last Updated:

Lifting weights, or resistance training, has numerous benefits to the muscles and skeleton that are uniquely attributed to this form of training.

There are some cognitive benefits associated with exercise in general, but this FAQ entry will be more focused on what resistance training can give that other forms of exercise cannot.

Resistance training?

Resistance training is a form of training where the muscles and skeleton are pit against a large force, either induced by external resistance (lifting weights) or by gravity (maximal jumping or sprinting). Resistance training tends to be focused on power, and tends to be anaerobic (intense) in nature.

Anything with maximal exertions can be considered resistance training. Things like Tennis and racquetball show some benefits as well due to some strides being full exertion, but weightlifting tends to have the most dramatic effects.

Benefits to Muscles

Most notably weight lifting, but all forms of resistance training, can increase muscle mass.

This can reduce the occurrence of sarcopenia (the age-related decline in muscle mass not associated with pro-inflammatory cytokines[1]) when elderly,[2][3] although all activity can reduce rates of sarcopenia, resistance training seems most effective.[4][5]

Benefits to Bone

Exercise in general tends to be associated with better bone mineral density and/or bone width in athletes when compared to a non-athletic control group.[6][7][8] Greater bone health and an exercise regimen are inversely associated with falls in the elderly, which suggests that exercise is a good preventative measure.[9][10][11]

It might also slightly protect against further reductions in bone mineral density in those already diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia,[12] although in general activity is encouraged.[13]

In older age, those who practice Sprinting have been shown to have better bone density and size relative to jogging and walking activities.[14] Although beneficial bone adaptations seem to be better in the young, they can still occur even if one starts a physical exercise program later in life.[15]

It should be noted that swimming does not tend to increase bone density or mass, as the person is suspended in a pool of water rather than actively forcing power against gravity. It may increase bone health slighty in some persons, but is much less reliable than other forms of exercise.[13][16][17]

Health Promoting effects

Involvement in exercise for at least 150 minutes a week in associated with a reduced risk of diabetes in men, with a protective effect existing for both aerobic exercise and weight training with persons participating in both having least risk.[18]

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  1. ^ Thomas DR. Sarcopenia. Clin Geriatr Med. (2010)
  2. ^ Sundell J. Resistance Training Is an Effective Tool against Metabolic and Frailty Syndromes. Adv Prev Med. (2011)
  3. ^ Johnston AP, De Lisio M, Parise G. Resistance training, sarcopenia, and the mitochondrial theory of aging. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. (2008)
  4. ^ Pillard F, et al. Physical activity and sarcopenia. Clin Geriatr Med. (2011)
  5. ^ Bautmans I, Van Puyvelde K, Mets T. Sarcopenia and functional decline: pathophysiology, prevention and therapy. Acta Clin Belg. (2009)
  6. ^ Kemmler W, et al. Exercise effects on bone mineral density, falls, coronary risk factors, and health care costs in older women: the randomized controlled senior fitness and prevention (SEFIP) study. Arch Intern Med. (2010)
  7. ^ Taaffe DR, et al. High-impact exercise promotes bone gain in well-trained female athletes. J Bone Miner Res. (1997)
  8. ^ Martyn-St James M, Carroll S. Effects of different impact exercise modalities on bone mineral density in premenopausal women: a meta-analysis. J Bone Miner Metab. (2010)
  9. ^ Hourigan SR, et al. Positive effects of exercise on falls and fracture risk in osteopenic women. Osteoporos Int. (2008)
  10. ^ Kronhed AC, Möller M. Effects of physical exercise on bone mass, balance skill and aerobic capacity in women and men with low bone mineral density, after one year of training--a prospective study. Scand J Med Sci Sports. (1998)
  11. ^ Asikainen TM, Kukkonen-Harjula K, Miilunpalo S. Exercise for health for early postmenopausal women: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Sports Med. (2004)
  12. ^ de Matos O, et al. Effect of specific exercise training on bone mineral density in women with postmenopausal osteopenia or osteoporosis. Gynecol Endocrinol. (2009)
  13. ^ a b Yamazaki S, et al. Effect of walking exercise on bone metabolism in postmenopausal women with osteopenia/osteoporosis. J Bone Miner Metab. (2004)
  14. ^ Wilks DC, et al. Bone mass and geometry of the tibia and the radius of master sprinters, middle and long distance runners, race-walkers and sedentary control participants: a pQCT study. Bone. (2009)
  15. ^ Kontulainen S, et al. Effect of long-term impact-loading on mass, size, and estimated strength of humerus and radius of female racquet-sports players: a peripheral quantitative computed tomography study between young and old starters and controls. J Bone Miner Res. (2003)
  16. ^ Derman O, et al. Effect of swimming on bone metabolism in adolescents. Turk J Pediatr. (2008)
  17. ^ Taaffe DR, et al. Differential effects of swimming versus weight-bearing activity on bone mineral status of eumenorrheic athletes. J Bone Miner Res. (1995)
  18. ^ A Prospective Study of Weight Training and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Men.