Resistance training is another way of saying Strength training. It is often a very misunderstood form of exercise. Bringing to mind young buff bodybuilders who spend hours and hours in the gym, most of us feel we have nothing in common with them when we stare in the mirror and as we bear the constraints of our time (work, family, caregiving) and our sedentary jobs. But strength training is so much more than a vanity excursion to look better. Strength training has scientifically proven health benefits. Let’s bust some of the myths about this overlooked piece of preventative wellness and explore the health benefits that strength and resistance training can bring as well as simple easy ways you can incorporate this training into your busy life.
(Remember to always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.)
Health Benefits of Strength and Resistance Training
Resistance training has a profound impact on your muscular and skeletal systems building both strong muscles and bones, and helps with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity, arthritis, chronic pain and even digestive health. The more muscle mass on your body, the higher your metabolic rate becomes- that means your body burns calories at a higher rate. And before you start to think “I don’t have the hours and hours to spend in a gym that I can’t afford” here’s what you need to know: You can reap all of these benefits in just two 15 -20 minute sessions of resistance training per week. You don’t have to have fancy equipment either. Your best set of weights can be your own body weight or you can use resistance bands in your home or office- anywhere you have a small amount of space is fine.
What is Resistance Training?
Resistance training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance. The external resistance can be dumbbells, rubber exercise tubing, your own body weight, bricks, bottles of water, or any other object that causes the muscles to contract.”
Resistance training increases your muscle strength by making your muscles work against some kind of force or weight. You don’t need to join a gym to resistance train- using your own body weight is a great way to resistance train. Resistance bands are another great option and are easy to carry along with you and use anywhere and anytime (see the Rolling Strong Flex System here). Of course, the tried and true use of free weights and weight machines are another good choice if you have access to them.
Resistance Training and Heart Health
We often think that doing lots and lots of aerobic activity is the best means to a healthy heart. The American Heart Association recommends a variety of forms of exercise to improve ones cardiac health and resistance training is a necessary component. The AHA recommends resistance training 2 times per week in addition to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.
Resistance training has recently been shown to have powerful effects on cardiovascular health. A study released in 2018 from the University of Iowa found that “Lifting weights for less than an hour a week may, reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent... Spending more than an hour in the weight room did not yield any additional benefit, the researchers found.”
Resistance training also improves the HDL (good cholesterol) functioning in a way that is even better than aerobic exercise can.
Resistance Training and Diabetes
Strength training improves the symptoms of diabetes and when combined with a regular well-rounded workout plan that also includes aerobic/cardio can substantially improve health outcomes. If you have diabetes, your body has an inability to both process glucose and to effectively use and produce insulin. ‘Resistance training can help. When you resistance train you experience an increase in lean muscle mass. This boosts your metabolic rate because muscles burn more calories than fat in your body. Burning more means using up more of the excess glucose in your blood and can help keep blood sugar levels in check.
When you consistently work a muscle against a force of some kind (resistance) you increase the muscles’ demand for energy- the energy that a muscle uses is glycogen which is formed when glucose is stored in the muscles. When this glycogen is depleted after a resistance workout, your muscles need to ‘reload’ and will uptake more of the glucose in the bloodstream to fill up again for the next workout. The larger the muscle, the more glucose it can store. Muscles become resistant to glucose when you don’t work them enough.This is known as “insulin resistance” Insulin is needed to take blood glucose and store it in the muscle. When the muscle is full and no demands are put on it the muscle will refuse to take more glucose and your blood glucose levels rise.
Resistance training helps stave off complications of diabetes; reducing the risk of heart disease, improving levels of good (HDH) cholesterol, lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol and controlling blood pressure.
Resistance Training and Cancer
Visceral fat is the dangerous abdominal fat that surrounds your organs increases your risk of both heart disease and diabetes as well as impacting how long your will live. Harvard researchers found that men who did just 20 minutes of weight training per day had less of an increase in age-related abdominal fat than those who just did aerobic exercise. Research also has linked cancer to visceral fat. Visceral fat and obesity increase your risk of cancers like colorectal cancer, uterine, esophageal, kidney, pancreatic and breast cancer. Since muscle wasting is a complication of cancer treatment, having good muscle to fat ratio is a strong predictor of positive cancer outcomes.
Research from the University of Sydney found that strength training was more impactful than aerobic exercise in preventing premature death from cancer; 31 % of 80,000 adults who did strength training just twice a week were less likely to die of cancer and 23% less likely to die of any cause. This research again pointed out that the best outcomes were for those who did a combination of both aerobic and resistance training.
- Resistance training also improves your mood, helps your feel better about yourself and has been found to improve brain health and cognitive function.
- Resistance training helps your skeletal system by increasing bone density. Sitting for long hours means your bones are not stressed enough and can cause bone loss, especially in post menopausal women. By increasing the ‘load’ of weight on the bones, you improve the bones ability to build itself.
- The increased muscle mass that comes along with resistance training means you boost your metabolic rate; the rate at which you burn calories. This not only helps with weight loss in the form of body fat; the increased muscle makes for a leaner silhouette.
- Balance and coordination are also benefits of resistance training. The extra muscle mass helps you to balance your body and prevents falls and injuries./li>
Whether you choose to use resistance bands, your own body weight or dumbbells you can improve your health and well-being; prevent and manage chronic diseases and improve how your feel about yourself.
Simple body weight exercises can be done anywhere. Do 2 minutes of squats as you brush your teeth; hold your body in a plank for 30 seconds, push-ups use just about every muscle in your upper body. Do tricep dips on any flat surface. There are literally hundreds of ways you can use your body weight to improve muscle tone. Look for a series of exercises using body weight or try resistance bands with the Rolling Strong Flex System. These short videos are easy to master and come at a variety of intensity levels and they are right inside the Rolling Strong App in the Fitness Section. In just a few minutes you can begin to feel the power and strength begin to develop in your body for a healthier life.
By: Cindy Luisi, WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach