If you live in one of the many areas where it’s hot, rainy, or you just want to stay inside, that’s a good enough reason to get in on the growing trend of resistance bands. They’re cheap, portable, and a simple way to get your daily dose of exercise – for overall health and cancer prevention.
Our physiologist Mary Kennedy explains how much of these exercises we should do and what all those different colors mean.
Q: You ask to incorporate resistance training in your exercise routine twice a week; how long would you recommend?
A: The ideal amount of resistance training isn’t usually measured in minutes; it’s measured by the number of exercises and repetitions completed. You should strive to complete 8 to 10 different exercises that target all major muscle groups. Aim to complete at least one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each.
If you are new to resistance training, the exercises in this video are a great way to get started—perform these exercises two times during the first week, then consider adding one new exercise each week until you have reached 8 to 10 different exercises.
Q: It seems like there are so many different resistance bands. For beginners, are there certain colors or other qualities to look for?
A: There is not one best type of resistance band; which type you use is based on individual preference.
Bands range in price from about $6 to $20, depending on the “extras.” Basic bands are a simple strip of rubber, while more expensive bands can have extras such as padded handles. Each type will allow you to effectively complete a resistance training routine. The choice comes down to comfort – a band should be easy and comfortable to use. It’s a good idea to start with something simple, and graduate to more complex options.
The decision of which color to choose should be based on the exercises you will perform with the bands and your current ability level. Each color signifies a level of tension, usually ranging from light to super heavy. Unfortunately, there is not a universal color-coding system, so you will have to check the package to find out the tension level for the brand you’ve chosen. Consider buying a few bands with different levels of tension because some muscle groups may be stronger than others. If you are new to resistance training, start out using a “light” tension band and master the technique before you challenge yourself with a heavier tension.
Q: Is resistance training the same as strength training and if so, is using resistance bands an alternative to weights or should you do both?
A: Yes, resistance and strength training are interchangeable concepts. They refer to a type of exercise that uses resistance to challenge muscular contraction in order to increase the strength and/or endurance of a muscle. This type of training can be done effectively using either weights or resistance bands. You do not need to complete the same series of exercises using both bands and weights. But you can add variety to your routine by using bands for some exercises and weights for others.
Q: Are there any specific health concerns with these exercises where someone should check with their doctor first or is it safe for all?
A: Resistance training is recommended for people of all ages; however, every individual has different health concerns. If you are new to exercise or if you have specific health issues, you should consult your health care provider before substantially increasing your physical activity. This physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) can help you better understand your level of risk.
Q: Anything else you would want first-time band exercisers to know?
A: Resistance training with bands should be fun! That is the most important thing to remember. While everyone should strive to meet the recommended levels of exercise, it is always better to do something than it is to do nothing. In the beginning, don’t worry too much about how much you are able to do – just get started doing something. Consider getting a group of friends together to do this routine together; listen to your favorite music to keep yourself motivated; or put on a movie and do this while you watch. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring to be effective.