When you think of some of the benefits your body may reap from strength training, your mind probably automatically drifts to building muscle, getting leaner, and (finally) knowing your way around a weight rack. But strength training actually promises an array of unexpected benefits that will definitely make you want to hop off the elliptical and onto the Smith machine.
I won't lie to you -- for a while, I was intimidated by the weight room, especially in college, when it was filled to the brim with talented, strong student athletes, and I was just a lanky yoga instructor who honestly had no clue where to start.
But once I got over my self-doubt and started incorporating strength training into my routine, I noticed the changes in both my body and my mind almost instantaneously.
Here are eight surprising benefits your body can enjoy when it comes to strength training that go way beyond sculpting badass biceps (but those are cool, too).
1. You'll Get Smarter
Research shows any form of exercise keeps your mind in tip-top shape.
But other studies have shown resistance training in particular is highly beneficial for cognitive functioning in older adults.
So put down the textbook and pick up some free weights instead (just don't tell your professors I said so).
2. You'll Procrastinate Less
Swedish researchers found that working out boosts productivity and helps you stay focused throughout the work day.
So if you're the kind of person who has a habit of mindlessly scrolling through Twitter when your eyes start to glaze over in the office, maybe try stashing a few resistance bands under your desk and grabbing those bad boys instead when procrastination strikes.
3. You'll Feel Happier
If you're in a funk you just can't seem to shake, the gym might just be the happy place your mind and body are craving.
Research has shown consistent resistance training decreases anxiety and increases production of those feel-good endorphins.
Some studies have even gone as far as to say strength training can help fight depression.
Now that's something worth hitting the weight room for, amirite?
4. You'll Have More Confidence
When you have a goal you're working toward and you finally begin to see the results of your hard work, it's rewarding AF, and it's a major confidence-booster.
Plus, feeling happy in your own skin inevitably radiates to all those around you, so your confidence will quite literally be contagious.
5. You May Decrease Your Risk Of Cancer
A 2008 study from the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that incorporating strength training just three times a week for six months led to reduced oxidative stress, which can ultimately lessen the risk of developing cancer.
6. You'll Increase Your Flexibility
(OK, maybe not like that.)
Results from a 2010 study looking at sedentary young women demonstrated strength training can significantly improve a person's flexibility.
So, if yoga just isn't your thing, skip pigeon pose and head straight to the weight room.
7. You'll Have A Better Night's Sleep
A regular date with your dumbbells could have a seriously positive impact on your nightly shut-eye.
If you find yourself having trouble getting those recommended seven to nine hours each night, strength training might just be the cure you need to regulate your sleep patterns.