The Benefits of Resistance Exercise

Part 2 of the “Which is better  for you: cardio exercise or resistance exercise?” question. This week’s topic: Resistance Exercise.

What is it?

Resistance training is a form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or muscle group against resistance. This can be achieved a bunch of ways: using hand weights, resistance bands/tubing, a static push against a wall, etc. There are 3 different types of muscles contractions: concentric, eccentric, and isometric contractions. Eccentric contractions are when the muscle lengthens (e.g., the lowering portion of an arm curl). Concentric contractions are when the muscle shortens (e.g., the lifting up portion of an arm curl). Isometric contractions are when the length of the muscle does not change (e.g., holding a weight with elbow bent at 90 degrees). The main idea is that you are getting the intended muscle or muscles to contract. The CDC recommends older adults perform resistance exercise at least 2 days per week involving all the major muscle groups.


Resistance Machines vs. Free Weights (Dumbbells & Resistance Bands)

Resistance Machines

  • Advantages
    • Easy to use
    • Safer/Less chance of Injury
    • Muscles are isolated effectively
  • Disadvantages
    • Not functional to everyday movements
    • Some machines may not fit a certain body size/type
    • Need a variety of machines to hit all major muscle group/Expensive $$$/Takes up a lot of space

Free Weights & Resistance Bands

  • Advantages
    • More versatile
    • Cost less $$$
    • Take up less space
    • Improves balance & coordination
    • Recruits more muscle groups (Stabilizer muscles)
  • Disadvantages
    • Increased chance of injury (Proper technique is essential)
    • Increased learning curve
    • Can look overwhelming is you have never used them before


Why is it good for us?

  • Maintain or improve mobility & balance
  • Improved attitude; increase self-esteem, feeling of independence, and well-being
  • Improved sleep
  • Pain management
  • Improved posture
  • Assists in maintaining healthy weight; burns calories and increases metabolism
  • Reduces your risk of heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes
  • Improves muscle strength & tone; Increased bone density & strength
  • Improve ability to do daily tasks and prevents falls; greater stamina
  • Live a longer & healthy life!

*Disadvantages: Strain on specific joints (usually through poor technique), poor form or technique which leads to injury, progressing too quickly/lifting more than you can handle, and over training. Note that all of these disadvantages can be altered or corrected to achieve the benefits of resistance exercise listed above.


A Research Perspective

A Doctor’s Perspective

A Physiology Perspective

Ryan’s Perspective

Resistance exercise of any form and time frame is beneficial for older adults. The advantages easily outweigh the disadvantageous. Most, if not all the disadvantages can be avoided if instructed properly.  A proper program can include both free weights and resistance machines as long as you are working all the major muscles groups. The key is to ensure you are performing the exercise with proper technique and are using the intended muscles for that specific exercise (e.g., an arm curl should use the bicep muscle when bending at the elbow, the back should not be involved). It is also important to provide adequate rest in between days you perform resistance exercise (about 48-72 hours depending on the program you are doing). If you are concerns about your health issues while performing resistance exercise, discuss options with me and medical professional/doctor. Changes can be made to accommodate your health needs.

The Bottom Line: Which is better cardio or resistance exercise?

This is sort of a trick question because in most adequate, well-rounded exercise program, BOTH should be incorporated throughout the week. 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise & at least 2 days of resistance exercise should be completed each week. Both resistance and cardio exercise provide different benefits that will help you live a healthier, more independent life. The more you stay moving, the better off you will be.

Have a great week,

Ryan Meisel
Edenwald Wellness Manager