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People often perceive resistance (or strength/weights) training as building muscle without truly understanding the plethora of other health ...




People often perceive resistance (or strength/weights) training as building muscle without truly understanding the plethora of other health benefits associated with this methodology of exercise. Resistance training is not just for people to become 'muscly' but can be utilised by people with many conditions and of all ages to improve their quality of life and make noticeable improvements in both their physical and mental health.

Sometimes when we think of resistance training, we think of lifting weights, however, resistance training is a broad term used for a number of different training methodologies such as free weights (e.g. dumbbells), resistance bands, and even bodyweight training which is essentially the resistance to gravity.

Improved strength is one of the first things that comes to mind when we think of resistance training, and rightly so, for this is such an important component of day to day life and not just for athletes. Increased strength allows us to complete activities of daily living so much easier, whether that be having to lift up your kids or carrying your groceries to the car.

Resistance training has been proven to improve bone density/strength due to the weight bearing stresses that it places through these body structures. It should also be noted that resistance training has a positive impact on your metabolism as muscle cells have a superior metabolic rate compared to fat cells.

One of the most conscious areas that people are concerned about gaining weight is their stomach, which is technically called 'visceral' fat. This abdominal fat is actually associated with higher rates of diseases which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and certain types of cancers. Evidence has shown that incorporating resistance training into your exercise regime reduces not only the total fat, but in particular this abdominal fat that all of us like to lose by the time summer comes around to get those beach bodies ready.

In summary, the benefits of resistance training include:

  • Improved strength.
  • Improved ability to carry out our usual activities of daily living (housework, shopping, lifting kids etc).
  • Improved bone density .
  • Reduced risk of developing osteoporosis or reduced osteoporosis progression if you already have it.
  • Reduced abdominal fat and improved body shape.
  • Improved sports performance with reduced risk of injuries.

Bear in mind, that the type of resistance training you do, needs to be specific to you - your physical health, your health and fitness goals and your sports background. As with any new physical activity it's important to consult your physiotherapist prior to starting, to make sure that you will be exercising safely and effectively.

Other important features are discussed:

1. Reduces the risk of falls.

Falling over is something that many people might not often think about, but as we become older this is of the biggest risks of injury. Most people believe that balance is associated with the risk of having a fall however, strength plays a huge role in our ability to reduce the chance of that happening. If we have greater strength in our muscles throughout our body, especially our core muscles, then we are able to support our body, particularly during dynamic (moving) positions. As we age, we start to become more aware of our body's limitations and potential frailness, and the risk of injury. By improving our strength we are able to decrease the likelihood of injuries occurring as a result of tripping and falling, while participating in various activities, or other activities in our day to day lives.

2. Increases spine & joint mobility.

Resistance training not only improves our muscle strength but also can help increase the mobility and the range of motion of our spine and joints. Muscular imbalances are common in most of us, even if we are unaware of it. We generally have a dominant side (i.e. left or right) and because of this it is important to maintain consistency and equilibrium between both sides of our body. Not only that, but our joints are better supported when surrounded by stronger muscular tissue which can help prevent injuries even in something as common as rolling our ankle.

3. Improves cardiovascular function.

Our heart is the hardest working muscle in the body. Did you know that on average it contracts and relaxes around 100,000 times a day? Resistance training helps to strengthen the heart muscles and thus improve our cardiovascular function. This is essential to maintain vital body processes such as blood pressure, peripheral circulation, cholesterol level and many other aspects in a healthy body.

4. Decreases risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most prevalent conditions in today's society, however, this can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle such as exercise regimes where strength training is involved. It does this through improving our insulin sensitivity and correspondingly reducing   blood sugar levels which decreases the likelihood of becoming diabetic. This also helps those who are diabetic by stabilizing their blood glucose levels.

5. Effects on brain, mood & cognitive decline.

Resistance training can also benefit the mind. We're all aware that sometimes we are prone to having off days and feeling down in the dumps but exercise and resistance training can help boost our self-esteem and mood. These are critical aspects that help us function and move through the days, particularly the hard ones. It also improves our sense of body image, social anxiety and other cognitive (psychological) limitations. Resistance training does help slow down cognitive decline and the potential for brain health deterioration which is especially important as we age.

There are many health benefits associated with incorporating resistance training into exercise regimes which can actually help improve our quality of life not only now, but in the future. Even if you are not a fan of 'lifting weights', incorporating this into your current exercise regimes, will only result in further benefits and positive outcomes.