Want to strengthen your bones, improve muscle tone, keep your heart healthy, lose weight and get that feel-good factor? Resistance training is suitable for everyone, and you don’t even need to go to the gym.
For many years, when I was more preoccupied with my physical appearance than my health, I spent 30-plus minutes every day exercising vigorously: aerobic dancing, leg swings and lifting weights. Some years down the line, I still try to maintain my daily, albeit less vigorous, 30-minute exercise session. Now, though, my priorities are keeping my bones and joints healthy, reducing the spread around my middle and trying my best to live as long as I can to enjoy my life, my family and my friends.
Chatting to friends and colleagues, I found that they feel the same way. ‘But where do I find the time?’ they ask, and ‘What exercises should I do?’ For most, the fear of joint pain and bone disease in later life represented the biggest threat of all. Resistance training is the answer. Just 30 minutes of resistance training a day is the best exercise to take care of your bones and joints and to generally feel good.
What is resistance training?
There are two types of resistance training: isometric resistance, which involves contracting your muscles against a immobile object such as against the floor in a push-up, and isotonic training, which contracts and strengthens your muscles through activities such as weight lifting. Resistance training (sometimes called strength training) works by causing microscopic damage to the muscle cells, which are soon repaired by the body to help the muscles regenerate and grow stronger. As your muscles work in conjunction with your bones, your skeletal frame is strengthened too.
8 reasons to do resistance training
Resistance training offers a simple -body workout. If we’ve still not persuaded you off the sofa, read exercise physiologist Dr Richard Weil’s list of what 30 minutes of resistance training a day can do for you:
- Build muscle mass and strength. According to Weil, between the ages of 30 and 70 ‘we lose more than 25 percent of the strength muscle fibres in our bodies.’ Resistance exercise can slow down or even reverse the ageing process of cells.
- Improve your posture, balance and coordination. Resistance training has been shown to reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, which is useful, especially as you get older.
- Ease painful arthritis. Resistance training can be as effective as medication to decrease arthritis pain.
- Beat post-menopausal bone loss by strengthening bone density and reducing the risk of bone fractures.
- Improve glucose levels in diabetics.
- Burn a lot of kilojoules. Did you know that your body continues to burn kilojoules after resistance training? That’s because you’ve kickstarted your metabolism.
- Improve your mood. Exercise elevates your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), making you feel good.
- Help you sleep better.
9 Muscle strength exercises
Power up your strength with weights (lifting heavier weights slowly strengthens bone more than lifting light weights quickly) or by simply using use your body weight. The following exercises are recommended by Dr Weil and the US Institute for Better Bone Health for newbies to resistance exercise:
- Stand up from a chair and sit down again 10 times without using your arms.
- While standing, rise up on your toes as high as possible. Lower yourself slowly. Repeat up to 60 times.
- Lunges are great for strengthening thigh muscles. Take a large step forward with one leg, then bend the knee of the back leg until it almost touches the floor. Stand up and repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat with both legs 10 times.
- Lie on your stomach and lift your legs and shoulders off the floor at the same time. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times to strengthen your buttocks and spine.
- Lie on your side and lift one leg away from the floor as high as possible. Hold it for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Repeat with the opposite leg.
- Lie on your back and bend your knees with the feet on the ground. Fold your arms on your chest and lift your shoulders off the floor. Hold for ten seconds and repeat ten times.
- Jump training: Step onto a low platform or box about no higher than 25 cm and jump down. Repeat 60 times.
- Jumping jacks, or star jumps.
- Swimming. This activity has been argued to have little impact on bone strength, but swimming uses muscles that interact with your bones. So dive in and do a few laps.
Simple, aren’t they? Practise these resistance exercises indoors or outside for just 30 minutes a day and you’ll feel stronger, more flexible, sleeker, happier and motivated. And remember, it’s never too late to start.
Supplements to strengthen bones
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