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The Benefits of Resistance Training for All: A Comprehensive Overview

Resistance training, also known as strength training or weight training, involves exercises designed to improve muscle strength and endurance by working against an external resistance. This form of exercise is highly beneficial for individuals of all ages, genders, and fitness levels. This blog will outline the positive reasons why resistance training is advantageous for various health aspects. There is literally no reason for any able-bodied person to not do some kind of resistance-based exercise on a regular basis. I am certain you will find something in here relating to you, even if you have no desire to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter.

  1. Back and Joint Pain

 

a. Back Pain Experience

Resistance training is often cited as a method for reducing back pain. Strengthening the core muscles, including the abdominal and lower back muscles, provides better support for the spine, which may not directly influence one’s pain experience but can certainly reduce injury risk and likelihood of injury relapse. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that individuals who engaged in a resistance training program experienced significant reductions in chronic lower back pain compared to those who did not exercise at-all. So, yes, you could argue that the resistance training itself was less important than the act of moving the body with purpose, but there are other reasons to get stronger.

b. Improving Joint Health

Resistance training also plays a crucial role in maintaining and improving joint health. It enhances the strength of the muscles surrounding the joints, which provides better support and reduces the stress on the joints themselves. For individuals with osteoarthritis, resistance training has been shown to decrease pain and improve function. According to research published in Arthritis Care & Research, patients with knee osteoarthritis who participated in resistance training programs experienced significant improvements in pain, physical function, and quality of life. Try this little test: sit in a chair and stand without using your hands to boost you. Can you sit and stand at least 10 times without stopping? If not, you may be in the onset of sarcopenia (muscle wastage) or osteopenia.

  1. Healthy Ageing 

a. Maintaining Muscle Mass

As people age, they naturally lose muscle mass and strength, a condition known as sarcopenia. Resistance training is an effective intervention to combat sarcopenia, helping older adults maintain and even increase their muscle mass and strength. This maintenance of muscle mass is crucial for preserving mobility and independence in older adults. A study in the Journal of Gerontology highlighted that older adults who engaged in regular resistance training preserved muscle mass and strength better than those who did not exercise. If you currently do no resistance training, you will start to notice significant improvements after just a couple of months from doing as little as 2 30-minute workouts per week.

b. Enhancing Bone Density

Bone density tends to decrease with age, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis. Resistance training has been shown to increase bone mineral density, thereby reducing the risk of fractures. The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research reported that postmenopausal women who participated in resistance training had increased bone density compared to those who did not engage in such exercise. That’s proper weights ladies, not those insulting pink hand weights that society says you should use.

  1. Post-Menopause Health

a. Managing Menopausal Symptoms

Post-menopausal women often experience a range of symptoms, including weight gain, decreased bone density, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Resistance training can mitigate many of these issues. For example, it has been shown to improve muscle mass, increase bone density, and enhance overall cardiovascular health. A study published in Menopause found that women who engaged in resistance training experienced reductions in menopausal symptoms and improvements in quality of life. For more on ‘body recomposition’ read this blog.

b. Reducing Cardiovascular Risk

Resistance training also plays a role in reducing cardiovascular risk factors in post-menopausal women. Regular resistance training can improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity, all of which are critical for cardiovascular health. According to a study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, post-menopausal women who participated in resistance training showed significant improvements in these cardiovascular risk factors. Yes, having more muscle mass and reducing body fat is a good thing, and no, you won’t get ‘bulky’ – not unless that’s something you specifically want to achieve.

This image shows the difference between the thigh of an inactive 70-year old, versus that of a 70-year old triathlete. The dark areas are muscle, the light areas adipose tissue (fat) - notice the difference in the thickness of the bones as well.

 

  1. Metabolic Health and Weight Management

a. Enhancing Metabolic Rate

One of the primary benefits of resistance training is its ability to enhance metabolic rate. Muscle tissue burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue, meaning that individuals with higher muscle mass have a higher resting metabolic rate. This makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology demonstrated that individuals who engaged in resistance training had higher metabolic rates compared to those who did not. That’s not to mention that stronger bodies are more efficient at partitioning nutrients, using oxygen and have better glucose tolerance.

b. Improving Insulin Sensitivity

Resistance training is also beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for managing and preventing type 2 diabetes. Enhanced insulin sensitivity means that the body can more effectively manage blood sugar levels. A study in Diabetes Care found that individuals with type 2 diabetes who engaged in resistance training had better glycaemic control compared to those who did not. If you combine strength exercise with a calorically appropriate nutrient-dense diet that is conducive to fat loss you could completely reverse T2D.

c. Supporting Weight Management

In addition to boosting metabolism, resistance training helps with weight management by promoting fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass. This combination is more effective for long-term weight management compared to diet alone. Research published in Obesity showed that individuals who combined resistance training with a healthy diet had better body composition outcomes compared to those who only focused on diet. Imagine a 6-month intervention in which you lost 0kg of fat but gained 5kg of muscle. You would look smaller, more ‘toned’ and feel a whole bunch better about yourself.

  1. Endurance Sports Participation

a. Enhancing Performance

For those involved in endurance sports such as running, cycling, or swimming, resistance training can enhance performance. Stronger muscles can generate more power and sustain activity for longer periods, improving overall endurance. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that endurance athletes who incorporated resistance training into their routine saw significant improvements in a number of performance markers including power, speed and oxygen economy. Anecdotally, I have never had a client who didn’t report a significant reduction in injury prevalence after undertaking regular and progressive resistance training, but what does the evidence say?

b. Preventing Injuries

Being injured isn’t a lot of fun but evidence does point to a reduction in the risk of certain injuries when resistance training is included. Strengthening the muscles, tendons, and ligaments makes them more resilient to the stresses of repetitive motion associated with endurance sports. According to research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, athletes who engaged in regular resistance training had lower injury rates compared to those who did not include it in their training regime. Sure, many injuries are unavoidable, and resistance training won’t stop you from crashing your bike at speed, but denser bones and stronger ligaments means that those injuries could be less severe, and you would heal quicker. Some  common injuries that my clients have reported a reduction in since starting resistance training include back, knee and Hamstring strains.

Here is a basic full-body kettlebell workout:

A1. TGU   x1/1

A2. Squat   x10

A3. Swings x20

x3-5 rounds

Conclusion

Resistance training offers numerous benefits for individuals regardless of age, gender, or fitness level. It may effectively alleviate back and joint pain, promotes healthy aging by preserving muscle mass and bone density, aids in managing post-menopausal symptoms, enhances metabolic health and supports weight management, and improves performance and injury prevention in endurance sports. Given its wide-ranging benefits, resistance training should be an integral part of any fitness regimen.

If you are inexperienced with resistance training, hire a coach to teach you good technique and to programme your training for you. Don’t be intimidated, you’re not going to be training like Arnold Schwarzenegger straight away. Simply start with squats, deadlifts and some upper push/pull movements. Or, better still, get in touch and ask about my coaching packages, either in-person or online.

Coach Troy

**If you enjoyed this blog why not support my work for less than the cost of a pint of beer? www.patreon.com/tmfitness**

 

References

  1. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Resistance Training Reduces Back Pain
  2. Arthritis Care & Research: Resistance Training in Osteoarthritis
  3. Journal of Gerontology: Effects of Resistance Training on Muscle Mass in Older Adults
  4. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research: Resistance Training and Bone Density
  5. Menopause: Resistance Training and Menopausal Symptoms
  6. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: Cardiovascular Benefits of Resistance Training
  7. Journal of Applied Physiology: Metabolic Rate and Resistance Training
  8. Diabetes Care: Resistance Training and Glycemic Control
  9. Obesity: Resistance Training and Weight Management
  10. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Resistance Training in Endurance Athletes
  11. British Journal of Sports Medicine: Injury Prevention through Resistance Training

 

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