July 19, 2006 Resistance Training Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. According to the Surgeon General, 30 minutes of regular physical activity on most days of the week can help reduce the risk of many kinds of chronic health problems (like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure). It also helps develop and maintain strong bones and joints, improve agility, balance and stamina, and reduces the risk of anxiety and depression. One type of exercise is resistance training (also known as weight training or strength training). As the name suggests, resistance exercises use some type of resistance (like free weights) to force the muscles to work a little harder during movement. The regimens strengthen the target muscle groups and increase muscle tone. Resistance exercises also improve the efficiency of the heart and lungs and can increase flexibility, coordination and mobility. Research shows a program of resistance training may strengthen bones (and reduce the risk of fracture), decrease the risk of lower back pain and improve overall ability to function in daily activities. Resistance training may also improve blood pressure, resting metabolic rate and insulin resistance (reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes). For optimal effects, researchers recommend two 15- to 20-minute sessions of resistance exercises a week. Power Bands Traditionally, resistance exercise is done with weight machines and free weights. However, another type of tool is becoming popular. Theyre called "power bands" (also known as resistance bands or exercise bands). The bands look like thick, giant rubber bands. Theyre usually made of latex or some type of strong, stretchable material. Some come with handles to make the bands easier to grip. Power bands were originally used by physical therapists to help clients regain strength after surgery or an injury. The bands can be used to perform many of the same kinds of resistance exercises done with free weights or weight machines. They come in different sizes, widths and colors. Generally, the thicker the band, the more resistance it provides during exercise. Unlike weights, which rely on gravity to provide increased resistance during one part of the activity, power bands provide a constant "pull" on the muscles. For travelers, or those who cant make it to the gym, power bands are a good alternative to free weights or weight machines. The bands are small and lightweight and can be packed in a suitcase or stored in a drawer or closet. Simple exercises can be done by wrapping the middle of the band around a pole, doorknob (make sure the door is firmly closed!) or any other fixed object. Pulling on the bands causes the tension, or resistance, needed to work the muscles. A user can also step on the band and pull, using the feet to anchor the middle of the band to the floor. The American Council on Exercise recommends one set of 12 to 15 repetitions for beginners. People who have been doing weight training exercises may want to do up to two sets of each exercise. As with any exercise, warm-ups with gentle stretching are recommended to reduce the risk of injury. Power bands are fairly safe to use for most people. However, there are some safety considerations to keep in mind. Like any rubber or latex item, they can become worn. Inspect the band periodically to look for cracks or holes that may weaken the band and cause it to suddenly tear. Make sure the tubing is securely wound around a stable, fixed object before pulling. Lastly, wear comfortable, but firm and supportive athletic shoes when exercising with the bands (no sandals, flip flops or dress shoes). Frediani has written a book, called The Powerband Workout, published by Hatherleigh Press for $19.95. It can be ordered through local and online bookstores. Power bands can usually be found for under $20.00 at many sporting goods stores and fitness establishments. AUDIENCE INQUIRY The book, The Powerband Workout, is published by Hatherleigh Press for $19.95. It can be ordered through local and online bookstores. Power bands can usually be found for under $20.00 at many sporting goods stores and fitness establishments. For general information on power bands/resistance training: American College of Sports Medicine, http://www.acsm.org American Council on Exercise, http://www.acefitness.org Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, http://www.fitness.gov BIBLIOGRAPHY Andersen, L., et al., "Neuromuscular Activation in Conventional Therapeutic Exercises and Heavy Resistance Exercises," Physical Therapy, May 2006, Vol. 86, No. 5, pp. 683-697. Bird, S., et al., "Designing Resistance Training Programmes to Enhance Muscular Fitness," Sports Medicine, 2005, Vol. 35, No. 10, pp. 841-851. 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