All About Resistance Exercise
What Is Resistance Exercise?
Resistance exercise is any form of exercise that applies a load or a force to your muscles and skeletal system that causes the muscles to contract in order to counter the load. Over time, your muscles and bones adapt to the load by growing stronger.
This beneficial stress also keeps tendons and other connective tissue strong and elastic, which guards against injury and stabilizes joints. Bone also requires this type of good stress to remain dense and strong, and prevent osteoporosis. As people age, they naturally lose some muscle mass over time unless something is done to counter this progressive muscle loss. Most people's activity levels also tend to decrease with age – a major factor in whether we become ill or not in our later years.
Regular resistance exercise will help keep the body strong and muscle tissue vital throughout our life, which in turn allows us to stay active, healthy, and independent for a long time. It’s a necessary and positive stressor that’s required to maintain strength, and normal functioning of the skeletal system and metabolism. Simply put, daily resistance exercise is necessary to maintain a properly functioning body and optimal well-being.
How Do You Do Resistance Exercise?
Historically, resistance exercise has been associated with lifting heavy weights. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger. The classic 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron” catapulted a 28-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger and the sport of bodybuilding into the spotlight. After seeing Arnold with his almost superhuman physique, the average person was intimidated into thinking that lifting weights was something they couldn’t do.
Schwarzenegger later spoke about his desire to change the fitness industry and how people thought about weight lifting. He encouraged average people to lift weights, eat well and live healthy at a time when lifting weights was thought to be dangerous to your health.
Despite the growing acceptance of resistance exercise into the mainstream, the “gym rat” stereotype of bodybuilders using heavy iron weights has persisted. Many traditional gyms are still filled with intimidating iron equipment and lots of sweaty, grunting men, although this is changing. This gym environment works for some, but many of us have no desire to be in one and steer clear.
Luckily, resistance exercise isn’t limited to a gym and includes any type of exercise that places a load (force) against your muscles.
Some common types of resistance exercise include:
Using body weight to do push-ups, planks and squats; and
Yoga and Pilates, which combine resistance exercise movements using body weight with stretching and flexibility work.
Resistance band workouts and rope workouts are new ways to do resistance exercise
Cross training will also supplement various sports
How Often Should You Do Resistance Exercise?
For someone just starting out with resistance exercise, we recommend starting with 15 minutes a day. This will change over time as your conditioning and strength improve. The goal is to get to 30 minutes per day, every day, with a goal of doing 180 minutes of resistance exercise each week.
You can break up the 30-minutes-per-day goal into shorter sessions. Do two 15-minute sessions, three 10-minute sessions or one 30-minute session. It’s up to you. What’s important is that all of your sessions throughout the day total 30 minutes. That’s the minimum for consistent benefits.
While it’s true that lifting heavy weights intensely requires a rest period of a day or more in between exercise sessions, heavy weights are not appropriate for the average person. Establishing the habit of doing daily resistance exercise with a low to medium weight is just fine and actually holds the power to bring many powerful health benefits into your life.
What Are The Benefits Of Regular Resistance Exercise?
The benefits of doing consistent resistance exercise are becoming increasingly seen in scientific studies. Let's go through just some of the health conditions improved through resistance exercise.
When compared to aerobic exercise in two studies, resistance exercise was found to be more effective at increasing insulin sensitivity (by 23%) and lowering A1C levels, two crucial components of diabetes management.
New research shows that people with chronic pain may have reduced neuroplasticity, affecting the ability of the brain to adapt to new changes and experiences. Exercise has been shown to improve the brain’s neuroplasticity by increasing blood flow, oxygen, and vital growth factors to the brain. Yoga, Pilates or tai chi are forms of resistance exercise that improve physical function, enhance quality of life, and reduce pain in those who have chronic pain from various causes.
Resistance exercise is also the best way to reduce pain and improve function in people who suffer from chronic lower back pain, knee osteoarthritis and chronic tendon problems (tendinopathies) of various joints. The muscles that stabilize our joints are also responsible for protecting the bones of the joints by acting as shock absorbers so that minimal stress and contact of the bones at the joint takes place. This helps prevent injury and also reduces chronic pain in those with muscle atrophy (muscle loss).
Increased Grip Strength
Having enough high-quality muscle mass on your body is essential for optimal health and weight management. This is because muscle (even though it’s denser and heavier than fat) has more metabolic function or requires more calories simply to exist as compared to fat. Think of fat (fat that’s beyond essential fat which is required for physiological functions) as our body’s storage. It doesn’t require as many calories to exist as muscle does. This is why gaining muscle will help you to lose or maintain your weight as muscle increases the total amount of calories your body needs while at rest (also called your resting metabolic rate).
When managing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or some combination of mental health issues, it’s important to optimize your environment by considering your diet, sleep patterns, stress levels and activity levels.
It's believed that exercise helps regulate hormonal production and build new neural (nerve) pathways through increased neurotransmitters that stimulate nerve cell growth in patients diagnosed with depression, although researchers aren't sure of the specific mechanisms. A separate study showed that low-to-moderate intensity resistance exercise also reduced anxiety.
A New Way To Do Resistance Exercise
As you can see, resistance exercise is beneficial not just for building and maintaining muscle, but there is a cascade of positive benefits from improved metabolism and weight management, to improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced mental health and even reduced mortality risks.
Traditional ways of doing resistance exercise have included gyms and heavy weights but they don’t have to anymore. We love using the Gravity Ball to do resistance exercise because it’s safe, fun and versatile. The adjustable strap design secures the weight to your hand (or foot) which allows you to do weighted resistance exercise without having to grip the weight, a true innovation for those with grip-strength limitations however anyone can make use of these cool straps. With Gravity Ball™, how you choose to do resistance exercise is up to you and the options are truly limitless.