What you should know about resistive training

We’ve had many conversations about the importance of maintaining your health. You know that I am a big advocate of doing all that you can to get in the best shape you can be in, because of what it means for your health and quality of life. It’s a well-documented fact that exercise matters.

Unfortunately, far too many of us are either sitting in front of the computers, using our smartphones and tablets to text and watch movies, or we’re sitting in a chair watching the television. That’s taking up time that should be spent going for walks, riding bikes, playing sports or participating in any of a variety of activities that help keep us in shape.

The problem is that sitting around and not keeping active can have serious results. Research has proven that physical inactivity is the second leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., and that’s a big reason behind why I am always talking with you about getting moving and doing what you can to stay active. Achieving your best outcomes offers many options. One of those options is resistive, or resistance, training.

I’m willing to bet you have heard of different types of resistive training, but you’ve heard of it referred to in a variety of different terms. So, what is it? Resistive training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against some kind of external resistance. The idea is it works to increase your strength, tone and, in many cases, your endurance.

The external resistance can come in many forms. It can be weights, rubber exercise tubing, bottles of water, cans of food from your pantry, a bag of onions or potatoes, and even using your own body weight while sitting in a chair. It really just requires causing your muscles to contract with the appropriate exercises for the form of resistance that you are using.

Why should you do resistive training? A big plus is that regardless of the season, you can do resistive training and benefit from it. And there are many benefits. Once we reach the age of 30, we start losing muscle, which is so important to mobility and overall health.

Resistive training not only can slow this process down, it can build your muscle mass, and with muscle mass comes strength. Added strength can lead to fewer falls for us of a certain age, so the benefit here is quite significant.

Another key benefit is that resistive training has been shown to build bone. This is important to all of us as we age and is particularly important to those who must deal with the bone loss that comes from osteoporosis.

Resistive training can also raise your metabolic rate. Maintaining your body weight and not falling prone to the weight gain that can result from a slowing metabolism is important for your overall health, including your heart health.

I also want to dispel a big myth before we go further. People often think that once you reach a certain age, it’s too late to start exercising and get real benefits. This should dispel that misinformation. A study was done of men and women with an average age of 87. They lifted weights three times a week for 10 weeks. The results? Their strength increased 113 percent. Enough said.

Resistance training has really become popular over the last 10 years or so because so much has been written about it, and there has been so much research showing the many benefits it provides. It might interest you to know that the governing body for exercise in the U.S., the American College of Sports Medicine includes resistance training in its recommendations for everyone.

I think you get the picture. A few things before you decide to get involved in resistive training: The first thing you have to do is make an appointment to see your medical professional. Once you’ve made your appointment, do a little prep. Make a list of medication and any supplements you may be taking.

Add some other information, too. Write down a complete list of any health issues, any new developments you may be dealing with involving your health, talk about your mobility and any challenges you have there, as well as any challenges you believe impact how you feel.

How’s your balance? Are you prone to falls? Do you ride a bike? Do you play any sport? Do you garden? If you use a walker or have other mobility challenges, do you find you are still able to engage in activities? If so, what are those?

Make sure you let your doctor know if there has been any change in your health. Were you recently ill? Make sure you write down and share every detail with your doctor. All of this information is very important to better enable your doctor to get a clear picture of your particular situation.

Your doctor may also perform an exam as part of the assessment and combine those findings with your records and all of the information you have shared, to give you the best possible advice.

You need a plan that puts a program in place to make progress in a way that works for your particular situation. There are gyms that offer a variety of machines and exercise classes. You might also be interested in private, one-on-one trainers.

Talk to your doctor about what makes sense for you. Depending on your personal needs, your doctor may recommend you participate in a program offered by some physical therapists, like the one we have here at Tidewater.

The programs take different forms. We set up these group programs to make them accessible and safe. The planned program involves a series of activities with the supervision of trained professionals. They provide a secure environment and the expertise and knowledge that makes sure you are doing the planned program properly, so you get the benefits you need. At the same time, it’s a great social opportunity, so it’s a real win-win.

One final thought. I want to keep talking together about what you can do to make life healthier and better. Commit to yourself. Make a deal with yourself that you’re not going to make any excuses and you are ready to commit to changes for a fitter, healthier you. What could possibly matter more than better health and the better quality of life that comes with it?

I’m going to be right here with you to keep working on moving forward. Getting the most out of each day and feeling better is what I want for you. Fair warning: You know that I’m not going to stop talking about it with you, because I believe you can make progress and I want to help you get the very best quality of life you can achieve.

Bob Cairo is a licensed physical therapist at Tidewater Physical Therapy. He can be reached by calling (302) 537-7260.

By Bob Cairo
Special to the Coastal Point