Why is Resistance Training so important?

February 15, 2021 4 min read

Author: Annie Crimmins (ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist)

I got my first gym membership when I was 16 years old. Going into the gym for the first time was a BIZARRE experience. With delineated ‘cardio’ and ‘weights’ sections, for years I gravitated towards the treadmills, cross-trainers, and bikes because that’s where I felt comfortable. The ‘weights’ section was too overwhelming for me- machines, benches and racks lined up in rows, free weight equipment- dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, and then there were the sweaty, ruddy-faced, middle-aged men strutting around, towels tossed over their shoulders, muscles bulging, moaning, and groaning as they pushed, pulled and heaved. It wasn’t until a couple years into my degree in exercise physiology, that I even felt comfortable entering the ‘weights’ section.

What is ‘Resistance Training’?

As defined by the ACSM, ‘resistance training’, ‘weight training’ or ‘strength training’ is a form of physical activity which involves exercising a muscle or group of muscles against external resistance.  This means that it does not necessarily involve using equipment & could involve exercises performed against body weight.

The ACSM guidelines recommend that all healthy adults should engage in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week, including 2 sessions of resistance training performed on non-consecutive days. While 55% of Australian adults met the aerobic activity guidelines in 2017-18, only 23% met the resistance training guidelines [1]. That means 77% of us do not do enough (or any) resistance training!

The Health Benefits of ‘Resistance Training’

Resistance training is for EVERYONEat ALL AGES. The physiological benefits of resistance training include [2]:

  1. Improved muscle strength, endurance, and power.
  2. Maintenance of bone mineral density (essential for the prevention and management of osteopenia and osteoporosis).
  3. Increased muscle and connective tissue durability and growth.
  4. Enhanced muscle-brain communication (resulting in better coordination).
  5. Better regulation of blood glucose (essential for the prevention and management of diabetes).
  6. Improved aerobic fitness.

It is used clinically for the prevention, management, and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, dementia, cancer as well as depression and musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis [2].

The benefits from resistance training are achieved by ‘progressive overload’. In other words, the load on the muscle must be sufficient to achieve adaptation. This means as the muscle gets stronger, more load is required to achieve more adaptation.

Shifting the focus from fat loss to muscle building

Muscle is essential for our metabolic health. The amount of muscle we have on our body determines our basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy our body burns to perform basic functions (such as digestion). It follows that the more you burn, the more fat you can lose. Therefore, at least two sessions of resistance training per week should be included in any sustainable fat loss program.

As you age, muscle mass becomes even more important as it directly relates to your level of physical function and ability to perform activities of daily living. Sarcopenia is a condition associated with aging that refers to the progressive loss of lean tissue. Therefore, resistance training becomes more important than ever to help you maintain your independence.

Where should I start?

Talk to your doctor before you start a new exercise program, especially if you have multiple health conditions. Sometimes it may be helpful to have a few sessions with a personal trainer or exercise physiologist to get you started on a program that is right for you.

Or those of us that are wanting to build in more resistance training, start off with a few exercises (building up to 8-10) that challenge the major muscle groups. Perform 2-3 sets of each exercise for 8-12 repetitions [2]. You are using the right resistance if you are finding the last repetition challenging to complete and should progress the weights so that the difficulty remains about an 8 out of 10 [2]. Therefore, as per the principle of progressive overload, as you get stronger, the weights should increase.

For more information on resistance training, visit the following link: https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-certified-blog/2019/07/31/acsm-guidelines-for-strength-training-featured-download

Disclaimer: Abundant Natural Health strongly recommends that you consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program. You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise. Abundant Natural Health is not a licensed medical care provider and represents that it has no expertise in diagnosing, examining, or treating medical conditions of any kind, or in determining the effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition.

You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Abundant Natural Health from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of the materials we produce.

References

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2020. Muscle strengthening activities among Australian adults. Retrieved 11 Jan 2021 from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/physical-activity/strengthening-activities-among-australian-adults/contents/summary
  2. Fiataraone Singh, M., Hackett, D., Schoenfeld, B., Vincent, H., Wescott, W. (2019). ACSM Guidelines for Strength Training | Featured Download. Retrieved 11 Jan 2021 from https://www.acsm.org/blog-detail/acsm-certified-blog/2019/07/31/acsm-guidelines-for-strength-training-featured-download


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