I’m not suggesting you have to start CrossFit, but I do think that strength training is one of the single BEST things you can do for your confidence and mental health. Here’s why:
1. Like other types of moderate and high intensity exercise, strength training releases chemicals called endorphins and increases levels of the hormone norepinephrine, which helps to reduce stress and make you feel good. People who exercise regularly report better sleep and fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some studies have found that exercise may even be more effective than antidepressants for treating depression.
2. Strength training promotes a healthier relationship with exercise. It’s not about burning calories. There's no "calories burned" counter on a little screen in front of you. Instead, you're doing something positive for your body, making it stronger and more awesome. If you do have weight to lose (besides the essential fat you NEED to be healthy), you’ll lose it without even thinking about it, because the muscle you’re building will use up more energy and increase your metabolism. It’s also harder to abuse strength training as a punishment or to "make up" for any “cheats” in your diet. If you want to make progress, you need to have rest days to let your muscles recover!
3. You’ll get stronger! (Hence the name I guess!) Being strong is super helpful in everyday life, when it comes to things like picking up suitcases, moving furniture, opening jars with stuck lids, and digging your car out of a snow bank. Being able to do more of these tasks for yourself will make you more self-reliant and increase your confidence.
4. Lifting a heavy barbell over my head and then dropping it on the floor with a clash makes me feel like a badass! I'm not just getting stronger physically, I also feel stronger. If I can complete a really difficult workout or lift more than I thought I’d ever be able to, then what other obstacles can I overcome in my life? Once you start making progress in the gym, that determination to constantly better yourself can spill over into other aspects of your life too!
Strength training for me isn't about looking a certain way - at least I try to make sure that's the case! It's about feeling empowered and being a stronger person, physically and mentally.