Someone asked me the other day “what is the one thing you would recommend that would benefit everyone the most?” What could everyone do that would help them avoid injury and pain, or help them stop having pain?
Now most people think the answer is going to be stretching, but they’re wrong!
If there was just one thing that I could recommend EVERYONE should be doing (I guess besides eating healthily/managing an appropriate weight) …
That right! Resistance training…. Lifting weight…. Developing greater muscular strength and endurance.
I’ll tell you why:
Being stronger makes life easier by comparison. It builds resilience in your body to be able to better withstand whatever life throws at you. There’s also a massive amount of health benefits of improving your lean muscle mass, from reducing your risk of many diseases, fractures and injuries, to even reducing your risk of premature death!
Not to mention that there is so much research now that has proven strengthening helps you to reduce pain (such as with arthritis, chronic back and neck pain etc) and reduce your risk of injury. Studies have found strength training reduces the rate of non-contact injuries in sport by 50%! Strength training was more effective than stretching, ergonomics changes or fancy chairs at reducing neck pain in office workers.
Exercise and resistance training has been shown time and again to be as effective (or more effective) than surgery for the management of mild to moderate knee and hip arthritis, degenerative (read: wear and tear) rotator cuff issues, bursitis, tendinopathy… the list goes on!
(Yes sometimes surgery is the best option, but even if you do need surgery, strength training beforehand means quicker recoveries and a much higher chance of full recovery)
In fact, did you know the World Health Organisation guidelines for MINIMUM levels of physical exercise includes 2 or more resistance training sessions per week? (You can read it here)
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to join a gym and buy matching lululemon tights (but that’s perfectly fine if you want to). The gym is an excellent place because it has all the equipment you need to be able to achieve what you want.
But there’s heaps of exercise you can do at your own home with either just your bodyweight or light weights or household items that will get you started.
The key is just to start! Anything you do is better than nothing, and if you do it consistently you will see the benefits. Exercise is a very simple science. Do the work consistently at the correct amount and you will definitely improve. The benefits from any exercise require consistent effort over time. You won’t feel the benefits straight away but give it a few weeks of consistent work and you’ll definitely start to notice the difference. Suddenly you’ll realise it didn’t hurt walking up the stairs for a change. Or you managed to work at the computer for 2 hours without starting to feel a headache coming on.
If you don’t know where to start, or what to do – then find someone who does. Start with exercises that address multiple muscles and large muscle groups (like squats and push ups). If you have problems or issues that may limit your ability to exercise (or you’re worried it might do some harm) then see a professional and have them guide you on what you can do. Even people without legs can do strength training so we could definitely work out ways to train without upsetting your dodgy knee (even though – as mentioned above, strength training at the right level and intensity will actually do it the world of good).
Work at getting stronger and life gets easier.
And start today! 2-3 times per week is all you need.
Julian is the Director and Principal Physiotherapist at EMC Physiotherapy. He has spent over a decade working exclusively in private physiotherapy practice, and estimates he would have performed over 40,000 individual treatments in that time. He has worked with everyone from Paralympians, elite athletes, WAFL Footballers, the Defence Forces and weekend warriors; to thousands of everyday people with all manner of issues. He is passionate about injury prevention and has a special interest in the treatment of headaches, shoulder issues, hypermobility management and exercise rehabilitation for the prevention and treatment of injuries.