Life is a roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs. Daily, there are challenges and stressors that challenge our mental health. Mindfulness skills help ease stress at the moment, but it's also important to limit stress by leading a healthy life and finding ways to cope with it. Some foods have a calming effect, while others, like coffee, can hype you up.
Then there's exercise. Some studies show aerobic exercise has a soothing effect and can elevate mood due to changes in brain chemicals and the effects of endorphins. But what about strength training? Is it possible to become mentally stronger by strengthening your muscles?
Strength Training and Mental Toughness
Physical strength is important, but so is mental strength and resilience. "Mental toughness" refers to the ability to cope with life's demands under challenging conditions. It's what helps you get through a rough patch in your life and come out the other side. Some people naturally have more mental fortitude, but it's something you can develop too.
There are many ways to build mental strength. For example, meditation is beneficial for strengthening the mind and reducing the effects of stress. Strength training increases your physical strength because it challenges your muscles and forces them to adapt and grow. However, strength training is also about building mental strength. Many people forget about this extra perk.
Strength Enhances Mood and Cognitive Function
Mental discipline and focus are also essential for strength training. To lift weights correctly, you must be mindful of your form, the number of repetitions you're doing, and the tempo. Insufficient focus can lead to injury or reduce the benefits you get from an exercise. The mechanics of lifting also require concentration. So, it is not a stretch to say that strength training develops mental strength and resilience, since your brain also must work hard when you lift.
Does research support the notion that strength training enhances mental strength? Exercise improves mood and relieves stress and anxiety, according to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., but measuring mental strength and resilience is challenging in a controlled study. However, you can infer the benefits indirectly by how strength training boosts cognitive function and mood.Plus, exercise helps you sleep better, and that's vital for healthy mental function.
Furthermore, exercise, including strength training, improves memory and cognition. Studies show strength training boosts executive function and memory in older adults. Considering these benefits, like improved mood and cognition, it is hard not to conclude that exercise can also increase mental strength.
Strength Training Boosts Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is another aspect of mental health and mental strength. Self-esteem is believing in one's abilities and worthiness. You're more likely to stay mentally strong and resilient in the face of hardship when you have high self-esteem. Strength training can also improve your mental health by increasing your self-esteem. Don't you stand a little taller after a strength training workout?
How does working your muscles against resistance boost self-esteem? Strength training teaches you to push a little harder and overcome a sticking point when you lift. Consequently, your body acquires the ability to overcome challenges. Through training, you force yourself out of your comfort zone and learn to deal with a bit of discomfort to become stronger. You also learn tenacity and consistency, and how to keep training, even when you'd rather sit on the couch watching television.
The Bottom Line
Strength training has many benefits, but not all of them are visible from the outside. Strength training not only burns fat, builds muscle and improves functionality, but also enhances mood, cognition, and self-esteem, boosting mental resiliency. There are so many reasons to strength train. Make it as much about your mind as your body. Strength training can also help you develop the mental toughness you need to succeed in other areas. The benefits extend to other aspects of your life. It's not just for a physique that rocks, but also for mental toughness. Make it a lifelong habit!
Resistance Training Improves Mental Health. Amenda Ramirez and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
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