Having discussed why exercise is important and how aerobic exercises can be incorporated in our daily schedule, we now move on to a more contentious issue - why resistance training is a must for everyone over 30 years of age?
Let us begin with some basics...
We expend energy under 4 Headers:
1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Represents energy spent when our body is at rest with its involuntary functions at work in the background.
2. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Represents energy spent on routine activities such as standing, walking from the car to our office or home, climbing stairs, cooking, running chores, etc.
3. Exercise: Energy consumed during systematic activities like walking, running, cycling, weightlifting, yoga, etc.
4. Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC): This is the oxygen debt accumulated during exercise, taken care by rapid breathing immediately after a sprint, a bout of lifting heavy weights or circuit training. Post heavy lifting, EPOC can continue for as long as 24-48 hours as the body spends excess energy to repair the 'micro-trauma' caused to stressed muscle fibers.
As evident, only the last two variables are under our immediate control. We can choose to exercise (or not), and choose the type, and intensity of our exercise, which determines the EPOC.
When we walk/run or do yoga, we expend some calories, and then some more for the first 15-60 minutes post exercise. However, when we undertake resistance training, we spend comparatively fewer calories during the exercise itself, but continue to burn extra calories for up to 48 hours later (depending upon the intensity and duration of the exercise) in repair/maintenance of the body.
Various hormones are released in response to heavy exercise, which have other benefits: improved insulin sensitivity (improve control of blood sugar) as well as increased levels of growth hormone and testosterone (improved lean muscle and bone mass, support in fat loss). Hence, if one continues these over the long-term, one can build in more lean mass (muscle and bone), which also serves to increase our BMR (more energy is needed to maintain muscle than any other tissue in the body, except for the brain).
Another salutary effect of resistance exercise is fighting the ravages of age! As mentioned earlier, normal adults start losing lean mass by about 1% per year after 30 years of age, leading to a progressive weakening of lean tissues into the 60s, 70s and beyond. This results in a lowering of BMR with age, and is responsible for the so-called middle age spread in tummies.
Studies suggest that the average adult gains about a pound of fat every year (or 1 kg every 2 years), if diet and activity remain constant.
So between ages 30 and 40, the average adult gains 5 kg of fat and loses about 9% of lean mass, if everything else remains the same (which is why the body weight doesn’t change much, while clothes and looks do). This also explains why older people tend to get bent, are weaker, slower, more prone to falling, and more likely to get injured when they do.
Resistance exercise works by preventing and sometimes even reversing age-related loss of lean mass, leading to positive changes directly in the last two variables, but indirectly in the first two as well. Done properly, it also boosts our immunity, prevents osteoporosis (weak bones due to age related losses), keeps our joints healthy and supple and helps us in losing fat and weight maintenance.
How to Incorporate Resistance Training Into Our Workout?
There are several options to choose from: free weight-lifting, resistance machines (in gyms) or bodyweight training (Callisthenics). Under supervision (at least in the beginning), all three provide excellent results if followed consistently and with care.
Under these three types, we have mainly two training protocols: volume training (conventional) or intensity training (gaining ground recently).
We shall discuss finer aspects of the above mentioned protocols next week. Stay Tuned.
This is a recurring column published every Sunday under the title: A Guide to Exercise.
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