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The importance of resistance training

Why resistance training should be a core part of your fitness regime…

Many people have a fitness programme which incorporates a couple of runs a week or a cycle with maybe a few warm up exercises and a stretch at the end. Whilst this is great for your cardiovascular fitness it does very little in terms of developing your strength and your core stability.

The benefits of resistance training are extensive and include:-

- Increased bone strength and density (particularly important as you get older)
- Enhanced joint stability
- Increased muscle-to-fat ratio leading to boosted metabolism and resting metabolic rate
- Improved body image and self-perception
- Improved posture
- Lowered heart rate and blood pressure after exercise
- Reduced risk of development of and improvement of medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis

Increased bone strength and density

Sad but true, from the age of about 30 onwards peak bone mass (PBM) begins to decline (in women this is at a rate of approximately 0.5% to 1.0% per year until the menopause and increases to about 2% per annum after the menopause – i.e. you can easily lose between 15-30% of your PBM by the age of 60!)….this is what is known as osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise (along with adequate consumption of calcium and exposure to the sun for the generation of vitamin D) has repeatedly been shown to increase bone density

Enhanced joint stability

Increased muscle mass as well as strengthened tendons and more supported ligaments lead to greater stability around major joints – particularly joints such as the knees and the hips which tend to take the most battering in our everyday lives.

Increased muscle-to-fat ratio

As muscle mass increases so does your metabolic rate (rate at which the body burns energy to survive)…. Research has shown that regular resistance training programmes can increase your basal metabolic rate by up to 15% - this is because muscle requires more “fuel” per kilogram than fat does. For those tied to the scales and wanting to lose weight it is often the increase in weight associated with muscle gain (which is heavier than fat) that puts people off doing weight training. In fact, how many times have you been surprised at how much friends of yours weigh who are lean and fit…..this is because they are carrying a smaller amount of fat and higher amount of dense muscle…….this also means they have to eat more just to maintain their weight…!!!!

Improved body image and self-perception

Nobody can deny that when you feel fit and healthy you feel better mentally and you experience increased confidence and self-esteem. Not to mention that every time a friend or colleague comments on how great you are looking it makes you that much more determined to keep it up!

Improved posture

A properly and personally tailored resistance program should provide benefits to your posture both in terms of strengthened core muscles as well as compensating for poor posture developed as a function of your lifestyle (i.e. sitting incorrectly at work or while driving). In addition, we all know that if we feel good about ourselves we tend to stand taller with our shoulders back and our chest out!

Increased health benefits and reduced risk of common ailments and diseases

Research has shown that resistance training can greatly reduce a number of commonly occurring health risks. It has been proven to have a positive affect on insulin resistance (commonly associated with the ever increasing Type II diabetes), blood pressure, body composition and gastrointestinal transit time – all factors that are linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

What now? How much do I need to do to make a difference?

Just two carefully tailored 15-20 minute sessions of resistance training a week is enough to gain all the potential health benefits mentioned above. Over the course of your sessions it is important that you take into consideration the following….

- use exercises that use ALL the major muscle groups – ie hamstrings (back of thighs) and quadriceps (front of thighs), glutes (backside), trapezius (upper back) latissimus dorsi (sides of back), pectoralis (chest), biceps/triceps (upper arms), abdominals (stomach).

- perform at least 8-12 repetitions over 2-3 sets, increasing weight over time.

- make sure you are using a suitable weight – the last repetition should feel like really hard work!

- Don’t overdo it and ANY pain stop immediately

- Make sure that you leave a day or two between sessions to rest and recover – muscles grow while resting!

You should always visit a doctor before embarking on any type of major change in your fitness program. Following this it is best to start your resistance training under the supervision of a personal trainer. Not only do they have the knowledge and experience to ensure that you have a well constructed programme – they also will push you that little bit further to ensure maximum benefits for your efforts!  Certainly the expert team of fitscape personal trainers can teach you everything you need to know during one of our holidays.


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