Resistance training (aka strength training) is exercise that applies tension to muscles through the use of free weights, machine weights, resistance bands or body weight – to induce muscular contraction. Resistance training leads to increased strength, muscle endurance (anaerobic endurance), improves bone density, and promotes positive impacts on body composition (muscle to fat ratio).
When we lift weights, the muscles are put under more tension – this causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibres (this is a GOOD thing!). These tears are then repaired by protein in the body, and by doing so, increases the overall strength and stamina of these muscles. Over time, improvements in muscular strength, endurance, joint health and bone strength are all likely outcomes.
As we get older, muscle mass decreases at a more rapid rate – therefore it is of increasing importance to continue resistance training to maintain strength, healthy joints, mobility and bone density. Long term benefits can be seen in as little as two resistance training sessions per week!
A common misconception and fear of a lot of women in particular, is that they will get ‘bulky’ or ‘big’ from lifting weights. However, women are physically unable to build the same type of muscle as men do, due to the differences in hormonal composition between men and women.
Men have much higher levels of testosterone (the male sex hormone) circulating around their body, than women do. Men use testosterone to aid in the repair and building processes of muscular tissue, which leads to much larger ‘bulky’ muscles. Women however, do not possess the capacity to do this. It is for this reason that men are (majority of the time) much stronger and larger than women.
Women who perform resistance training build lean muscle, giving a ‘toned’ appearance, as well as achieving strength and bone density benefits as mentioned above.
By maintaining your strength, you are able to remain independent and continue to enjoy day to day leisure activities such as gardening, outdoor walks, tennis and so on!
This means bones remain stronger and healthier for longer – and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis and other degenerative diseases.
As mentioned, women will not get ‘bulky’ from resistance training, but lifting weights will build healthy toned looking muscle, reducing the appearance of sagging areas such as the upper arms.
Muscle uses more energy at rest than fat – therefore the more muscle you have, the higher your ‘resting metabolic rate’ (the energy you burn at rest), which may also aid in fat loss.
As our muscle strength improves with consistent training, we have the benefit of experiencing a greater amount of control over our bodies as we move about in our daily lives. With a more purposeful movement due to greater control of our muscles and limbs in particular, we can move more fluidly and with less impact on our joints. Exercising also has been proven to release endorphins which can have the same pain reduction properties to morphine and without all the side effects!
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.