Friday, April 25, 2014
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Join the Resistance

Weights aren’t the only way to get ripped

You, the Speedo and the beach no longer come together in one sentence. So you may ask yourself why you need to lift weights or do other resistance training.

Your six-pack-ab days are over.

But vanity ranks low on the list of reasons you should embrace this physical activity, according to according to Gary A. Sforzo, Ph.D, professor, Exercise and Sports Sciences, Ithaca College, Ithaca, N.Y.

Exercises in which you use the force of your muscles against a resistance you’re not accustomed to moving, such as a free weight or your body during push-ups, are important for your health and your lifestyle, say experts.

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  • You not only reduce your risk of certain conditions, such as hypertension or osteoporosis, you’re also more likely to maintain your independence as you age.

    Following a regular regimen of resistance training may be as effective as anti-hypertensive medications, according to recent research from Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.

    You may be able to reduce your blood pressure by as much as 20 percent, says Scott R. Collier, Ph.D., professor of cardiovascular exercise science at Appalachian State.

    What is it about working out with weights that rivals prescription drugs for hypertension?

    Resistance exercise increases blood flow so the heart doesn’t have to work as hard, according to Collier, who published his findings in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.”

    If you routinely train at least 30 minutes at a time, three days a week, the beneficial effects of resistance exercise may last as long as a day, Collier says.

    His study findings show that people with limited mobility, who can’t do aerobic exercise, can still get heart protective benefits working with weights.

    But you can’t do resistance training on an occasional basis and expect your blood pressure to remain low; you have to keep it up, says the cardiovascular exercise expert.

    Women who do resistance training can protect against or treat osteoporosis, according to Collier.

    (If you need to manage type 2 diabetes you’ll want to do both resistance and aerobic exercise, according to a study in the “Annals of Internal Medicine.”)

    However, having good muscle mass is more than a tool to prevent chronic disease. Keeping your muscles toned also helps you enjoy everyday living.

    “You can’t not have the loss of muscle mass when you hit 70, but you still want functionality,” Sforzo says. “You still want to be able to lift your grandchildren, or a carton of milk [from the supermarket’s dairy case].”

    Increasing your muscle strength is doable at any age, says the Ithaca professor.

    Volunteers in their 70’s increased their muscle strength by 20 to 30 percent in about three months in one of Sforzo’s studies.

    If you’re new to resistance exercise, start with a trainer who can teach you how to use gym equipment correctly, says Collier.

    Aim for moderate intensity and increase weights gradually.

    And don’t worry about whether it’s appropriate.

    “It’s something everyone should be doing. It’s for your health, and it does have a side effect,” Sforzo says.

    “It might make you look better.”

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    Bev Bennett CTW Features
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