The Importance of Resistance Training
By the LiveNow team
Resistance training consists of much more than just picking things up and putting them down. This perception tends to scare people away from the free-weight area at the gym. However, the benefits of moving your body against a resistance are numerous, yet relatively unknown or ignored. The bulk of this blog is not about bulk at all, it’s about improving the functionality of your body and getting the most out of your healthy lifestyle routine.
When we consider weight-loss strategies, we don’t often think about the benefits of resistance training. Instead, our brains are ingrained with CARDIO, CARDIO, CARDIO! Now, I’m not trying to discredit the benefits and metabolic effect that cardio exercise has, but if someone were to ask me what they could do to lose and manage weight, I would answer their question with a question: “Do you incorporate resistance training into your routine?”
Why would I put such an emphasis on lifting weight to lose weight? Let’s take a look at the benefits:
Burn calories while you rest. You read that correctly, a challenging resistance workout can help you burn calories while you are at rest due to an increase in basal metabolic rate following your workout. Basal metabolic rate (BMR), is the rate at which your body utilizes calories during basic functions, such as breathing. This essentially means that you can burn more calories while watching your favorite show, while working on that report, or even while sleeping. If the training is challenging enough, this heightened BMR can last for up to three days after the workout, which is partly why it is recommended to incorporate resistance exercise two to three days per week for general health purposes.
Increased muscular strength = increased bone strength. Your bone structure is very adaptive to any changes that happen in your body, specifically changes in muscle density or strength. If your muscles weaken or become smaller (atrophy), your bones will weaken or become less dense; however, if your muscles strengthen and grow (hypertrophy), your bones will strengthen and grow. Thus, with regular resistance training you can help prevent the occurrence of conditions like osteopenia/osteoporosis.
Sustained energy. Just like how resistance exercise promotes a persistent metabolic burn, you can also reap the benefits of sustained energy level. Skip the coffee, soda or energy drinks – most of which can contain ingredients that are detrimental to your health – and plan for an early morning strength training workout instead! The energy boost that you feel can be delayed, but can also last for longer than the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee.
Improve posture and avoid injury. During safe and effective weightlifting sessions – using proper form and controlled movement – there is a very important action called “bracing.” Bracing is the active engagement of the core and postural muscles before, during and after a complete movement. Bracing is done to protect your spine and joints when an extra load has been placed on them. Enough bracing over a period of time will keep your core and spinal stabilizer muscles strong during activities of daily living (ADL). To summarize, the work you do inside the gym will help your body’s functionality outside the gym.
Feel good. Exercise of any kind, but especially resistance training, can promote the release of “happy hormones” in the body. These hormones consist of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. The effects of this hormone release can be experienced immediately and last long after your workout is complete. The results? Improved mood (your family and coworkers will thank you), confidence and mental focus are just a few of the byproducts of this chemical reaction in your body.
Efficiently utilize fuel. You probably already know that too much fat, sugar and sodium can wreak havoc on your body over time. Did you also know that fat is an effective energy source? Resistance workouts can help you better utilize fat and carbs by burning them as the energy sources they are. Did you also know that sugar and protein work very well together after resistance training to aid the muscles in the recovery process? Sugar can be used as a transport aid for protein in the bloodstream during the post-workout recovery process. This is why food or drink that has high protein and sugar content are highly recommended after lifting weights; examples include chocolate milk and certain candy bars.
Bottom line, don’t be afraid of the weight rack or hesitant to hop on a resistance machine just because you don’t want to get bulky, or because you’re afraid “Tank-Top Joe” is going to judge you, or because you aren’t quite sure where to start. Ask someone for assistance, invest in a trainer or talk to a seasoned gym-goer to get you started, or look into some at-home fitness equipment if a gym membership just isn’t an option for you. Start with a day or two every week and you’ll already start to notice the many benefits of resistance training.
Just a disclaimer: be safe, start slow, practice good form and get your warm-ups and cool-downs in; but also, challenge yourself, enjoy the journey and have fun!
By Shawn Hustoft, Well-Being Supervisor