11 Major Health and Fitness Benefits of Weight Training

No disrespect to cardio, but if you want to get in shape and jump every hurdle that comes your way — both in and out of the gym — weight training is where it’s at. You can’t open any social media feed without some fitness pro or athlete telling you to get on board with not only lifting weights but lifting heavier ones. And experts agree: Weight training has some incredible benefits.

But what are the real deal benefits of weight training? And should you try it if you’re already happy with your current workout routine? Here are nearly a dozen reasons that’ll convince you to pick up those heavy dumbbells.

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The Benefits of Weight Training

By mixing weight training into your fitness practice, you'll improve your muscular strength, bone health, flexibility, and more.

Defines Muscles

Want powerful, defined muscles? “If [people] want more definition, they should lift heavier, since they cannot get bigger muscles because of low testosterone levels,” says Jason Karp, Ph.D., M.B.A, a USA Track and Field-certified running coach, exercise physiologist, and author. “So, lifting heavier has the potential to make [them] more defined.”

Strength training may have a reputation of making you “bulk up,” but it’s not true. The more your weight comes from muscle (rather than fat), the more defined your muscles will look. Plus, it’s difficult for folks with low levels of testosterone, which impacts your muscle-building potential, to get bodybuilder muscular, says Jen Sinkler, an Olympic lifting coach, RKC-2 and KBA certified kettlebell instructor, and author of Lift Weights Faster. To seriously gain size, these individuals would pretty much need to live in the weight room.

Improves Bone Health

Weight lifting doesn’t only train your muscles; it trains your bones. When you perform a curl, for example, your muscles tug on your arm’s bones. The cells within those bones react by creating new bone cells, says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., founder of Women’s Strength Nation. Over time, your bones become stronger and denser.

The key to this one is consistency, as research has shown that lifting heavy weights over time not only maintains bone mass but can even build new bone, especially in the high-risk group of post-menopausal people.

Targets Body Fat, Not Muscle Mass

Build more muscle, and you’ll keep your body burning calories all day long — that’s the science behind why weight training targets more body fat than many other fitness modalities. “Lifting weights can increase your lean body mass, which increases the number of overall calories you burn during the day,” says Jacque Crockford, C.S.C.S., spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise.

Burning extra calories post-workout plus building muscle? It may sound too good to be true, but it’s actually backed up by research. In a 2017 study on overweight adults age 60 and over, the combination of a low-calorie diet and weight training resulted in greater fat loss than a combination of a low-calorie diet and walking workouts. The adults who walked instead of weight trained did lose a comparable amount of weight, but a significant portion of the weight loss included lean body mass. Meanwhile, the adults who did weight training maintained muscle mass while losing fat. This suggests that while aerobic exercise burns both fat and muscle, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat.

May Reduce Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

Weight training can help reduce your risk of serious health conditions, in part by helping to minimize excess visceral fat. ICYDK, there is more than one classification of body fat. Subcutaneous fat is found right under the skin, and it’s the fat that you can feel and see, while visceral fat is found deep in the body and lines your vital organ, according to an article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Both types of fat are necessary parts of the body’s composition, and both are distributed differently based on many individual factors.

However, an excess of visceral fat can put you at greater risk of developing illnesses such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study. But weight training can help: The UAB study found that the women who lifted weights lost more visceral abdominal fat than those who just did cardio. Further, it found that the women who kept weight training kept the visceral abdominal fat off for a year, even if they gained weight overall. So TL;DR: Weight training can improve your cardiovascular health by preventing an excess of visceral fat.

Burns More Calories Than Cardio

Just sitting on your tush reading this, you're burning calories — if you lift weights, that is.

You may burn more calories during your one-hour cardio class than you would lifting weights for an hour, but a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who lifted weights burned an average of 100 more total calories during the 24 hours after their training session ended. Another study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Metabolism found that, following a 100-minute weight training session, young women’s basal metabolic rate spiked by 4.2 percent for 16 hours after the workout — burning about 60 more calories.

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And the effect of this benefit of weight training is magnified when you increase the load, according to a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Women who lifted more weight for fewer reps (85 percent of their max load for 8 reps) burned nearly twice as many calories during the two hours after their workout than when they did more reps with a lighter weight (45 percent of their max load for 15 reps).

Why? Your muscle mass largely determines your resting metabolic rate, aka how many calories you burn by just living and breathing. “The more muscle you have, the more energy your body expends. Everything you do, from brushing your teeth to sleeping to checking Instagram, you’ll be burning more calories,” says Perkins. And this could be especially beneficial depending on your goals. (That said, burning calories isn’t the be-all and end-all; the other health benefits of weight lifting are just as — if not more — important.)

Strengthens All Over

Lifting lighter weights for more reps is great for building muscle endurance, but if you want to increase your strength, increasing your weight load is key. Add compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and rows to your weight training regimen and you’ll be amazed at how fast you’ll build strength.

This particular benefit of weight training has a big payoff. Everyday activities (carrying groceries, pushing open a heavy door, hoisting a kid) will be easier — and you'll feel like an unstoppable powerhouse, too.

Prevents Injury

Achy hips and sore knees don’t have to be a staple of your morning run. Strengthening the muscles surrounding and supporting your joints can help prevent injuries by helping you maintain good form, as well as strengthening joint integrity.

So go ahead, squat low. Your knees will thank you. “Proper strength training is actually the solution to joint issues,” says Perkins. “Stronger muscles better hold your joints in position, so you won't need to worry about your knee flaring up during your next run.”

Improves Athletic Performance

This might be a surprising benefit of weight training for some long-time runners, but it’s one that shouldn’t be ignored. Stronger muscles mean better performance, period. Your core will be better able to support your body’s weight and maintain ideal form during other exercises (e.g. running), plus your arms and legs will be more powerful.

What’s more, since weight training increases the number and size of muscle fibers fueling your performance, weight training could actually help you burn more calories during your cardio workouts, says Perkins.

Increases Flexibility

Researchers from the University of North Dakota pitted static stretches against weight training exercises and found that full-range resistance training workouts can improve flexibility just as well as your typical static stretching regimen.

The keyword here is “full-range,” notes Sinkler. If you can't complete the full motion (i.e. going all the way up and all the way down) with a given weight, you may need to use a lighter dumbbell and work up to it.

Boosts Heart Health

Cardiovascular exercise isn’t the only exercise that’s, well, cardiovascular. In fact, weight training can up your heart health, too. In one Appalachian State University study, people who performed 45 minutes of moderate-intensity resistance exercise lowered their blood pressure by 20 percent. That’s as good as — if not better than — the benefits associated with most blood pressure pills.

Makes You Feel Empowered

Throwing around some serious iron doesn't just empower people in the movies. Lifting heavier weights — and building strength as a result — comes with a big self-esteem boost, and this might just be the biggest benefit of weight training. Your strength will not only show in your body but also in your attitude.

“Strength has a funny way of bleeding into all areas of your life, in the gym and out,” says Sinkler. By constantly challenging yourself to do things you never thought possible, your confidence grows.

— Update: 10-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article 8 Benefits of Lifting Weights You’ve Probably Never Heard of from the website barbend.com for the keyword benefits of weight training.

One of the most damaging misconceptions surrounding the world of fitness is that lifting weights is simply an exercise in vanity. But an essential lesson to internalize — for both experienced athletes and enthusiastic beginners — is that looking nice is just a side effect of the process. An enjoyable side effect, sure, and for many, it’s the reason they pick up a barbell in the first place.

But the benefits of strength go way, way, way beyond that. Some of them – confidence, lower body fat, resistance to injury – you’re probably aware of. Still, it would be a disservice not to mention some additional perks alongside the popular ones we all see on magazine covers. Below you’ll find eight unique yet potent benefits of lifting weights.

Benefits of Lifting Weights

  • A Stronger Brain
  • Cleaner Blood
  • Activated Genes
  • Reduced Depression
  • Fewer Strokes
  • Improved Posture
  • Better Relationships
  • Better Sleep Quality

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A Stronger Brain

Like many parts of the body, the brain tends to shrink with age, but lifting weights appears to help slow the process.

A lot of the classic literature surrounding the interaction of exercise on brain health focuses on the benefits of aerobics. Fortunately, modern science is finally concluding that lifting is good for the mind. Aggregate analyses confirm that regular resistance training augments critical thinking skills and recall, with the benefits being more potent the earlier in life you start lifting. (1)

When younger folks start a lifting habit, it builds a stronger brain that’s less susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of mental decline, possibly because progressive resistance training seems to boost BDNF, a protein that helps to build new brain cells. (2)

Practical Application

  • Find a training split or program that suits your needs and stick to it. There’s no specific exercise that will make you smarter or quick-witted, but the overall benefits are too large to ignore.

Cleaner Blood

Worried about your cholesterol levels? Strength training can be a solid natural remedy. In one widely-cited study of women in their twenties, 14 weeks of heavy strength training (at 85 percent of their one-rep max) resulted in significant decreases in blood cholesterol levels, including a strong trend towards a more favorable ratio of “bad” to “good” cholesterol. (3)

Benefits of weight training
Phonlamai Photo/Shutterstock

Of course, heavy lifting is also a super effective way to reduce body fat. A slimmer waistline is another factor linked to reducing the risk of heart disease or other cardiac ailments. The list goes on and on. (4)

Practical Application

  • If you’ve only been pounding the pavement, work out how to incorporate lifting with cardiovascular exercise. The synergistic benefits alone are worth mixing it up when it comes to your preferred style of training. 

Activated Genes

The genes you’re born with, as it turns out, don’t control your destiny. Not entirely, anyway — while your “genetic blueprint” is fixed, strength training appears to activate and “reprogram” certain genes. (Think of it like changing the software in your hardware – the genes don’t change, but the way they act do.)

Scientists postulate that a shift in gene expression could be why resistance training is linked to better immunity, stress response, and protein synthesis. (5)

There’s still a lot to learn, but one thing’s relatively clear — stronger muscles mean healthier genes.

Practical Application

  • Unfortunately, no workout routine will grant you superpowers (though the right program comes close) or change your hair color. Consistent resistance training affords a slew of “silent” health benefits like better genetic behaviors.  

Reduced Depression

Iron may indeed be the best therapy (medicine ball slams are a close second). Compared with aerobic training or no exercise at all, resistance training has been shown in several studies to be the best form of physical exercise to reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety. (6)

Benefits of weight training
Image Credit: Seasontime/Shutterstock

In one particularly promising trial of 30 sedentary women, signs of worry and anxiety showed remission in 60 percent of the participants, compared with 40 percent for the aerobic training group. (7)

While these studies are definitely promising, they’re not a blanket recommendation and do not constitute medical advice. Speak with a medical practitioner first if you think you may be experiencing the symptoms of depression.

Practical Application

  • Hitting the gym to improve your mood will only work if you actually like what you’re doing. Make sure you’re on a routine that makes lifting weights fun and not a chore of its own.

[Related: Three Steps to Better Time Management For Strength Athletes]

Fewer Strokes

Physical inactivity has been listed by the famous Interstroke study as one of the five key risk factors responsible for 80 percent of the world’s strokes, and in this case, more is better. (8)

A meta-analysis of a whopping 23 studies concluded that the risk reduction in adults who practiced regular physical exercise was as high as 27 percent. (9)

Much of this literature doesn’t differentiate between aerobic and resistance training, but while aerobic definitely has its place, strength – in particular, grip strength – has been strongly correlated with stroke risk. (10)

Practical Application

  • Like many other preventative benefits of weight lifting, you can’t really target stroke risk reduction through training. For general well-being, find a balanced routine that includes some form of cardio as well, possibly at the end of your session. 

Improved Posture

From a young age, most of us were told to “stand up straight” or “quit slouching.” While we may have chalked this up to motherly nagging at the time, it turns out that these jabs are rooted in tangible science that backs resistance training as well. 

Lifting weights helps develop and strengthen the core, spine, hips, and shoulders musculature, which are all heavily dedicated to maintaining correct posture. Aside from making you look a little taller when you enter a room, improved posture has been regularly linked to better health outcomes regarding back pain. (11) 
Benefits of weight training
A lesser-known perk, however, is the effect of good posture on cognition. Some literature argues that people who stand — properly, of course — instead of sitting or slouching can have better thought patterning and cognition skills, helping them perform better in the workplace. (12)

Practical Application

  • If you want to give extra attention to your posture, incorporate posterior chain and upper back movements like Romanian deadlifts, back extensions, or your favorite row variation. 

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Better Relationships

We’re not saying that hitting the gym will help you find the love of your life — although a workout can be a good first date idea. Concerning interpersonal relationships in general, some science suggests physical activity performed with coworkers can improve quality of life and reduce stress in the workplace. (13)

We can’t guarantee that doing a partner ab workout will prevent you from being irritated by an insufferable colleague, but getting some group-based activity together may help ease tensions or perceived workload both in and out of the office. (14) 

Practical Application

  • Group training sessions like those commonly found in CrossFit are great for hitting the iron with partners or partners. Alternatively, having a workout buddy with you in the gym to serve as a spotter or motivator might benefit your actual training more than you think. 

[Related: The History of the Modern Day Gym]

Better Sleep Quality 

You probably don’t need someone to tell you that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for way more than just crushing it in the gym. Being consistently well-rested improves every aspect of your life, not just your training. 

Fortunately, lifting weights is one of the most thoroughly-backed methods of improving rest quality for just about everyone. (15) For those who rely on a pill or potion to get some shut-eye, research suggests that consistent resistance training may suitably replace the medication for inducing sleep long-term. (16) 

Practical Application

  • Get on a good resistance training program if you find yourself lacking in healthy sleep patterns. Be careful when you decide to hit the gym, though — training close to your normal bedtime can actually inhibit your body’s ability to relax, especially if you use a pre-workout supplement. 

[Related: 3 Ways to Use Kettlebells for Active Recovery]

Wrapping Up

Many of the conditions we just mentioned are considered consequences of the aging process. Strength training’s ability to prevent, combat, and reverse some of their effects is why lifting weights can literally make your body younger. (17) That said, if you have a serious condition, always consult with your doctor regarding treatment. 

It can be easy to stumble upon a routine guaranteed to give you a boulder chest or cannonball-sized shoulders and conflate resistance training with vanity. As it turns out, lifting does just as much — if not more — for the inside of your body as it does the outside. 


  1. Herold, F., Törpel, A., Schega, L. et al. (2019) Functional and/or structural brain changes in response to resistance exercises and resistance training lead to cognitive improvements – a systematic review. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act 16(10).
  2. Yarrow, J. F., White, L. J., McCoy, S. C., & Borst, S. E. (2010). Training augments resistance exercise induced elevation of circulating brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Neuroscience letters, 479(2), 161–165. 
  3. Prabhakaran, B., Dowling, E. A., Branch, J. D., Swain, D. P., & Leutholtz, B. C. (1999). Effect of 14 weeks of resistance training on lipid profile and body fat percentage in premenopausal women. British journal of sports medicine, 33(3), 190–195. 
  4. Powell-Wiley et al. (2021) Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. American Heart Association. 
  5. Liu, D., Sartor, M. A., Nader, G. A., Gutmann, L., Treutelaar, M. K., Pistilli, E. E., Iglayreger, H. B., Burant, C. F., Hoffman, E. P., & Gordon, P. M. (2010). Skeletal muscle gene expression in response to resistance exercise: sex specific regulation. BMC genomics, 11, 659. 
  6. O’Connor PJ, Herring MP, Caravalho A. (2010) Mental Health Benefits of Strength Training in Adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 4(5):377-396. 
  7. Melville A. N. (2011) Resistance Training Improves Generalized Anxiety Disorder. American College of Sports Medicine. 
  8. O’Donnell M. et al. (2010) Risk factors for ischaemic and intracerebral haemorrhagic stroke in 22 countries (the INTERSTROKE study): a case-control study. The Lancet 376(9735).
  9. Lee, C. D., Folsom, A. R., & Blair, S. N. (2003). Physical activity and stroke risk: a meta-analysis. Stroke, 34(10), 2475–2481. 
  10. Leong et al. (2015) Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The Lancet 386(9990). 
  11. Nowotny, J., Nowotny-Czupryna, O., Brzęk, A., Kowalczyk, A., & Czupryna, K. (2011). Body posture and syndromes of back pain. Ortopedia, traumatologia, rehabilitacja, 13(1), 59–71. 
  12. Smith, K.C., Davoli, C.C., Knapp, W.H. et al. (2019) Standing enhances cognitive control and alters visual search. Atten Percept Psychophys 81, 2320–2329.
  13. Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., & Andersen, L. L. (2017). Psychosocial benefits of workplace physical exercise: cluster randomized controlled trial. BMC public health, 17(1), 798. 
  14. Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Aagaard, P., & Andersen, L. L. (2015). Physical exercise at the workplace reduces perceived physical exertion during healthcare work: cluster randomized controlled trial. Scandinavian journal of public health, 43(7), 713–720. 
  15. Kovacevic, A., Mavros, Y., Heisz, J. J., & Fiatarone Singh, M. A. (2018). The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews, 39, 52–68. 
  16. Yang, P. Y., Ho, K. H., Chen, H. C., & Chien, M. Y. (2012). Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems: a systematic review. Journal of physiotherapy, 58(3), 157–163. 
  17. Melov S, Tarnopolsky MA, Beckman K, Felkey K, Hubbard A (2007) Resistance Exercise Reverses Aging in Human Skeletal Muscle. PLoS ONE 2(5)

Featured Image: Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock


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