Don’t Resist the Resistance

Last time, I wrote about habits; the need to correct bad ones while developing good ones, and how to use them to your benefit. I even teased an upcoming post on how you might go about changing and developing your habits. This is not that post.

You see, this morning I got to work and noted one of my coworkers had a nasty scab on his forehead. Turns out he slipped and fell, and bashed his head which led to a discussion on aging and the loss of balance that naturally comes with it. A topic I’ve written on previously, as it happens.

In that post I mostly concentrated nutrition. Short version, make sure you get plenty of vitamin D (4000iu per day), not just for all the regular benefits of vitamin D, but because it there is evidence linking vitamin D deficiency and vertigo.

Now, I did note that resistance training is important for preventing injuries due to falls. First, the primary purpose of resistance training is building muscle mass and increasing the muscle cushion around your bones helps prevent breaking them in a fall.

Second, resistance training stresses your bones, slowing bone loss and even leading to bone growth. In particular, weight training particularly helps the bones of the hips, spine and wrists. You know, the bones most likely to break in a fall. Don’t believe me? Okay then, do you believe Harvard?

But, and here’s the interesting thing, not all resistance training is created equal. My co-worker does go to the gym and does do weight training. And he mentioned, specifically, the problems he has with balance. So ol’ Andrew dug a little deeper and it turns out, he uses the machines, not free weights.

Now, the weight machines do provide many of the benefits we seek in doing resistance training; strength, muscle mass and bone density (aesthetics, too, if you’re into that sort of thing) so they help with preventing harm, and improving recovery from falls. But…they don’t help with balance, and training with free weights does. Why?

Well, if your resistance training includes moving relatively heavy weights in a few basic exercises, you aren’t just working the big muscles and the bones, you’re working the small stabilizer muscles around your joints; knees, hips, ankles, spine…

So, Andrew, what are these exercise? Well, I decline to answer that question. You see, and I’ve said this repeatedly, I’m not a weights guy, I’m a yoga guy. I have enough yoga/Pilates/posture experience that I will make recommendations, but not with weights. The risks are too great for my level of ignorance, if you want the weights guy, go to someone like Mark Rippetoe.

But that might raise the question, “Why am I recommending resistance training if I don’t do it?”

Aha! I DO do resistance training, I just don’t do weight training. Yoga is resistance training (I might have written something on the subject). In my first few years of regular yoga I gained over 20 pounds while dropping almost 2 inches off my waist.

Besides which, yoga is balance training. Believe me, standing on one foot, while holding the other, leg fully extended, as you lean over, REALLY works your balance. Especially if you try closing your eyes.

So, then, why does yoga guy recommend weight training if he doesn’t do it himself? Because, just as weight training isn’t right for me, yoga isn’t right for everyone else. The best exercise for you is one you enjoy, one that you look forward to doing.

If you’re concerned about your balance, about falling down, find some exercise that will help. Get into resistance training, and if you’re not doing free weights, how about:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Stand up Paddle boarding
  • Gymnastics
  • Dance
  • Martial arts
  • Rock climbing

I’ve done all of the above (except one) at one time or another, and enjoyed them all. There’s bound to be some way to improve your balance while having fun, so get out there and work your balance. Someday your bones will thank you for it.