One of my goals in writing these blog posts (and what got me started as a strength coach) is to help educate people on how to best take care of their bodies and maximize what they are capable of. It is important to me that my clients, athlete or general population, not only work hard and see results, but maybe more so that they learn more about their bodies and what makes it tick. The end result is hopefully someone who is self-motivated and educated to the point where I become the map rather than the driver. With that being said Part 1 of Why Resistance Train was sort of fluffy. It focused narrowly on the effect of resistance training on weight loss through increased metabolism and calorie output. Do not get me wrong on this, weight management is paramount to being healthy however part 2 is going to be a little heavier, as I want to delve into the many other reasons that everyone should consider resistance training. It’s about quality of life.
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
“Research has shown that strengthening exercises are both safe and effective for women and men of all ages, including those who are not in perfect health. In fact, people with health concerns – including heart disease or arthritis – often benefit the most…”
On that premise I would like to outline some of the more pertinent issues facing many in our population today including: joint health, type 2 diabetes, hypertension/ cardiovascular disease and cognitive and mental health. I would also like to insist that despite the numerous benefits to resistance training, if done improperly it can be harmful. Please consult your physician before starting any exercise routine and seek the guidance of an educated and certified personal trainer to help you safely and effectively start resistance training.
Joint Health (Arthritis)
I want to first state that it is not “normal” or common for people who are on a properly supervised and designed resistance training program to experience join pain. If you are in a category where your experience is to associate pain with weight training, your body is telling you “you are doing something wrong,” and you should speak with a physio- therapist or personal trainer with specific knowledge of movement restrictions.
With that out of the way let’s focus on the task at hand and recognize the benefits that resistance training can have for joint and bone health.
We all know that resistance training helps to build and strengthen our muscles. What may not be as understood is that those strengthened muscles help to reduce the stress on our joints by providing vital support. Transversely, weak muscles place greater pressure on the joint, this according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Resistance training also helps to promote circulation and lubrication of the joints as well as healthy cartilage, all of which reduce friction and ease or eliminate pain.
The other great thing about a properly designed and executed resistance training program is that it will increase your range of motion. Range of motion refers to the ability of your joint to move through a particular range such raising your arms over your head or squatting down. By understanding the restrictions in your range of motion and trainer is able to help you work through said restrictions and increase the ROM.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “(b)one is a living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger.” They recommend a regimen of weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises in order to prevent and treat osteoporosis. By making our bones work to support weight we are increasing their density thus increasing their strength. There is a caution though for those who may already lack bone density to adjust the intensity of exercise to appropriately reflect the load your body can handle.
Cardiovascular health/ hypertension
Much of the impact of resistance training on cardiovascular health is causal. It is causal in the sense that the many other positives associated with resistance training, improve our bodies functionality thereby allowing us to perform the aerobic exercise required to have a direct impact on our heart and lung capacity. By increasing our lean body mass and decreasing our body fat percentage we create a weight management program that (when combined with diet) can be an effective therapy for those with hypertension (high blood pressure). Even better is the ability to combine aerobic and strength exercise through dynamic movements, stair intervals and circuit training getting the best of both worlds.
Read study: Resistance Exercise in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease from the American Heart Association.
Cognitive and Mental Health
It’s no secret that self-esteem can directly impact our state of mind. During my time at McMaster University, we used to laugh amongst ourselves when prior to playing a football game we are all looking in the mirror, “Look good. Feel good. Play good.” Is how the saying goes. So, it’s no surprise that time and again studies show that people who exercise at least once a week have improved confidence and self-esteem. However, this isn’t just vanity controlling our lives since resistance training improves oxygen uptake, circulation to the brain and releases endorphins, all of which are contributing factors to how we feel. On top of this resistance training has been shown to improve sleep patterns which can help with things like depression, anxiety, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, etc, etc, etc.
Cognitively, those who exercise are shown to have improved mental focus, decision making and problem solving skills. Resistance training, or rather any physical activity, is also known to promote greater attention span and retention on knowledge, when done throughout the day. However, probably the most notable and personally interesting is the marked improvement of memory and memory-related tasks. In an article published on CBC news there is a link between resistance training and a slowing of dementia related cognitive decline.
The results of a long term study into the effects of weight training on Type 2 diabetes by the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with the University of Southern Denmark, shows that the addition of resistance training to ones life could reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 34%. Lead Author of the study, Anders Grantved says, “These new results suggest that weight training, to a large extent, can serve as an alternative to aerobic exercise for Type 2 diabetes prevention.” However, when combine with aerobic exercise the prevention rate is a staggering 59% according to the study.
Resistance training has shown not just to be a great preventer but also treatment for type-2 diabetes. Weight training helps to regulate glycemic control or blood sugar levels, through improved insulin sensitivity. According to the American Diabetes Association, studies have shown weight training as an effective tool in increasing glycemic control amongst type-2 diabetes patients.
In this list I have tried to address some of the most common and debilitating health issues facing our population. Though this is not a comprehensive list and I encourage everyone who reads this to explore the many resources that are available and even better give resistance training a try and see how you feel!
If you live in Mississauga, Oakville or the GTA contact PSP today and get started on the journey to the BEST you!
About the Author
Justin Vince is the founder of Prototype Sports Performance in Mississauga, ON. In addition to being a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Justin is also a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. Justin is passionate learner and coach, who also enjoys picking up heavy things.