An ideal fitness regime has a mix of cardio, resistance and flexibility training. Most people tend to neglect at least one of these areas; the usual suspect is stretching. But this year, many people have found the resistance training habits the most difficult to uphold.
Resistance training is any type of exercise that contracts muscles to build strength and lean muscle mass. You can do it with body weight but it tends to be easier with some equipment. Many people have found it challenging this year without consistent access to the gym and have instead focused on walking, biking or online cardio classes. You can neglect your strength for a while without serious consequence – muscle doesn’t evaporate overnight. But it does decrease over time at a rate of around 3 to 5% per decade and the older you are the harder it is to regain. So if you’ve neglected your resistance training it’s important to address it.
The first reason you need resistance training in your life is for structural stability. Resistance training improves stamina and muscle endurance, making aerobic exercise easier. Strong ligaments and tendons support the joints and reduce the likelihood of injury. But you don’t need to be exercising to get injured – many people get injured from the comfort of their own chair. There’s been a lot more working from home this year which means a lot more time in a seated position. Sitting puts stress on all your postural muscles. If you don’t have adequate muscle tone to support you then your body can adapt to the slumped stance as its new normal. This can cause back and neck pain, leading to tension headaches.
The second reason to keep up your resistance training is for daily functionality. Being strong enables you to continue to perform activities that require lifting, pushing and pulling. When you’re young you take these skills for granted but as you age they are not a given. Resistance training is particularly important for women to rebuild bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Every year, one in three New Zealanders aged over 65 injures themselves in a fall. This rises to one in two people from 80 onwards. A strong core can lower the risk of losing your balance. If you do fall, strong muscles and bones can reduce your chance of serious injury. Resistance training equals independence.
The third benefit of resistance training for lean muscle mass is an increased metabolic rate. Muscle is busy stuff requiring oxygen and nutrients. This means the body needs to expend energy to maintain it. If you have lean muscle mass you’re burning calories even just sitting on the couch. When lean muscle mass starts to decrease, the methods of weight management people tend to rely on (a low calorie diet and cardiovascular activity) just no longer do the job. Despite moving and eating similarly, many people find their weight creeps up at approximately a kilo a year. It’s easy to put on 10kgs across a decade. And that’s under normal circumstances, not like this year where Christmas kilos will stack on top of Covid kilos.
We’re living in uncertain times but one thing is for sure – this is a great time to not need medical attention. Resistance training can keep you structurally stable, protecting you against injury and dependence on others. Maintaining lean muscle mass can also help you stay inside a healthy weight zone, which promotes physical and mental wellness. At Les Mills we’re industry leaders in health and safety. We’re continuously improving our systems to provide the most hygienic environment possible for resistance training. We look forward to seeing you in the gym.