Star Trek fans should enjoy the title of this blog post: Resistance is futile! In the Star Trek franchise, The Borg are a vast collection of drones who use the phrase "resistance is futile" prior to assimilating new victims!
However for the purpose of this article, resistance is not futile at all. In fact it is the opposite: very effective! Resistance exercises utilizing dumbbells, machines, cables, resistance bands, and body weight have many benefits. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommends incorporating strength based exercises a minimum of two days per week in addition to other forms of exercise such as cardiovascular training. Resistance training benefits bone health, muscle strength, body composition, metabolic rate, and improves mood.
The structure and density of our bones is constantly changing. Bones are building up or breaking down, depending on signals from our bodies. When we "stress" the bones through resistance, the bone is signalled to build and strengthen. This is a simplified description, but illustrates a very important reason to consider strength based exercise. Professional tennis players have denser bone in the arm which holds the racket. This bone has been consistently stressed. Choosing activities such as walking, hiking, squats, and lunges, use our own body weight against gravity as resistance and are good choices for bone health.
Strength based exercises using resistance builds muscle. As we get older, past about age 35, inactive people start to lose muscle mass, resulting in more difficulty performing the activities they enjoy, and even basic activities of daily living. Keeping active reduces and even reverses muscle loss. Great news! So at all ages we should be picking up the dumbbells. Just choose the weight appropriate for you.
When we discuss body composition, we are looking at the proportion of fat vs. fat-free mass in the body. Building muscles through resistance based training means a leaner body composition. Lean muscle tissue burns more calories throughout the day than fat, so our metabolism also benefits from training. Even at rest, muscle is burning through the calories at a higher rate than fat. Thanks muscle!!
Resistance training has also been associated with mental health benefits such as elevated mood, improved self confidence, and even decreased feelings of depression and anxiety. Even with everything I have discussed here, there are more reasons to lift, pull, and squat. Cardiovascular health, posture, and balance are a few more improvements to include.
How to add resistance? When doing cardio based exercise, hops, skips and jumps are great as we work our body against gravity! Pick up dumbbells, kettle bells, weighted waist, ankle, or wrist straps, resistance bands, use gym machines, and of course, get down and do some push ups! Body weight exercises can be done anywhere and are my favourites.
Here is a resistance exercise that can be done at home; in fact you can do it now!
1. Grab a couple dumbbells if you have them, or even two cans from the cupboard.
2. Stand tall, engage core.
3. Step back into lunge, up on back toes, front knee over ankle.
4. Lower the back knee toward the floor.
5. Bending your elbows, perform one bicep curl and lower.
6. Step back to start position.
7. Repeat on the same side 8-12 times, then perform the above steps with the other leg.