Resistance training at home
Resistance training has previously been thought of as something for young people to do, but nothing could be further from the truth. Studies over the last 15 years has built a growing body of evidence that shows no matter what your age, resistance training has excellent benefits and being older and inactive only means you have more to gain. Exercising without resistance training is like playing a guitar with only two strings, sure you’ll make noise but it won’t be music. What’s more, it’s easier to do than you think and can be done at home.
As we age, we lose muscle mass unless we actively do something to maintain it. You may not notice when it happens but over the years it means that things you used to do are now too difficult, you don’t have the strength to do them, so you stop and the cycle continues. This can reach the point where getting out of a chair is a monumental task.
The many benefits of muscle
Having more muscle mass helps management of blood glucose levels, improves your resting energy expenditure, and improves your ability to complete cardiovascular exercise. It protects our joints from damage and is used in the management of osteoarthritis. It improves our bone mineral density, preventing or delaying osteoporosis. People with heart failure have successfully completed resistance training as well as those with chronic lung conditions. People in treatment for cancer are doing it and gaining benefits in muscle mass and recovery.
Some people think you can’t lose weight with resistance training, however recent studies have found that those having lost 12 kg with diet and resistance training had greater resting energy expenditure and kept their muscle mass than people who lost 12 kg with diet and aerobic exercise alone. Moreover, studies have also found that completing resistance training prevents regaining of visceral fat following weight loss, similarly to aerobic exercise. Visceral fat is the fat that is in and around your internal organs and is closely related to decreased insulin sensitivity, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. If you have a chronic condition or disease, it’s still possible to do resistance training, but check with your GP or specialist if you have any concerns.
No gym membership required!
While going to a gym is an excellent way to do resistance training, it can be a bit daunting or simply not within your budget. The great news is you can start at home. All you need is a chair, some weights or resistive band, you can get these at your local sports shop — and a wall. Choose some weights that feel moderately heavy to you, whether that’s one or 10 kilos. Moderately heavy means you can do 10–12 repetitions (i.e. curls/lifts) with the weight but no more.
As with any exercise, care needs to be taken. With resistance training, posture and good technique is important to prevent injuries and maximise the benefits. Retain your posture as you do your weights and if you can’t do them correctly then take a break. Use a mirror to self-correct your technique as you proceed. Following are some exercises you can do at home.
- Sit and Stand: Sit on a chair with feet on the ground shoulder-width apart. Keeping the J-shape or arch in your back, stand up. Then sit back down again pushing your backside out and back keeping your knees over your toes. Repeat.
- Wall press or chest press: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on wall slightly below shoulder height and keeping your body straight from ankle to shoulder, lean forward into the wall and press out again. Repeat. You can make this harder by placing your feet further away from the wall.
- Bicep curls: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, with trunk straight and hold the weights in your hands. Keeping this position and your hand position neutral, raise the weights by bending your elbows until the weight reaches your shoulder. Return to the start position and repeat.
- Bent-over row: Sitting forward on a chair and keeping the arch in your back, start with your hands down and in front, holding the weight, then raise them up to your chest height, allowing your elbows to stay out and comfortable. Then lower back to the start position.
- Calf raise: Stand on flat ground with something to steady you if you need it, keep your body straight and raise your heels off the ground as far as you can go. Then lower your heels to the floor. Try not to lean forward or swing or bounce. To make this harder, you can do it from a step.
- Standing hip abduction: Stand with a chair to steady you and keep your toes pointing to the front as you slowly raise one leg out to the side keeping your pelvis level, then return your leg to the centre. Repeat 10–15 times with one leg and then do the other.
- Frontal raise: Standing or sitting with good posture and weights in each hand, elbows slightly bent. Slowly raise one arm up to the front (no higher than shoulder) and return to start position. Alternate arms and repeat.
Christine Armarego, ESSAM, MAppSci (Ergonomics), MAppSci (Rehab), is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Manager of The Glucose Club
This article was originally published in Conquest Magazine published by Health Publishing Australia
Conquest Magazine, Health Publishing Australia