What is Weight-Bearing Exercise and What are the Benefits?
If you have heard the term “weight-bearing exercise” and are wondering exactly what that means, join the club. A lot of people become confused when very specific words or phrases are used to indicate some general type of exercise. Let’s clear the air here by getting an exact definition.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD, is a recognized health and wellness expert and author. He defines a weight-bearing exercise as one that:
“… exerts a gravitational force on bone and muscles.”
He gives examples of jogging, walking, jumping rope, leg presses and squats as weight-bearing exercises. In many times these types of exercises can be performed with physical fitness equipment. However, one of the biggest benefits of weight-bearing exercises is that no equipment is required at all.
Gravity plus the weight of your body is all that you need to sculpt a toned, muscular, strong and healthy physique. This is the nature of weight-bearing exercise. Simply moving throughout your day, staying constantly physically active, performing housework, working at the office and following your daily routine you are practicing weight-bearing exercise.
Also, the intensity of your workout will dictate the level of your results. Performing 30 minutes of body weight exercises with little rest between sets will deliver better health results than simply walking for 10 minutes. However, all weight-bearing exercises deliver the following benefits to some degree.
The stress that this type of physical activity places on your bones actually makes them denser. The growth of bone cells is stimulated, which also makes your bones stronger.
Since you need nothing more than the weight of your body, weight-bearing exercises can be performed anywhere, at any time. You don’t need to join an expensive gym, and you can exercise even if you travel a lot.
Your balance improves. Many weight-bearing exercises are performed on your feet (lunges, squats, jogging). This builds up the stabilization muscles in your legs, giving you better balance.
You become stronger. Strong muscles are not just for bodybuilders. When you build lean, strong muscles, everything you do becomes easier, from simple daily tasks to strenuous ones.
You develop that toned, athletic look. This does wonders for your health, self-esteem and ability to attract a partner.
You burn fat and calories. Being overweight or obese can cause other health concerns. Weight-bearing workouts replace fat, flabby areas on your body with toned muscle.
Your stamina increases. You need stamina to walk several flights of stairs, work a double shift at work or spend a weekend playing with your energetic grand-kids.
When to Check With Your Doctor Before Starting a New Exercise Plan
Keeping active is important if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle. That means adding exercise to your daily or weekly routine. If you haven’t been active in some time, you may want to consider checking with your doctor before you take up any type of exercise program.
The obvious reason for talking with a health professional in this situation is to avoid injury. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle for any significant period of time, you can’t simply jump into strenuous physical activity. You could break a bone, pull ligaments or suffer some other type of injury.
The worst case scenario is you could give yourself a heart attack. Your heart conditions itself to work as hard as you make it. So if you begin exercising after a long break, your heart is forced to quickly move from very little activity to forcing blood throughout your body at a very high rate. This drastic change in what you demand from your ticker could cause a serious cardiovascular problem.
An extended absence from physical activity is not the only reason you may want to get your doctor’s approval before beginning exercise. The Mayo Clinic urges you to speak with your physician before taking up exercise if any of the following situations apply.
- You have heart disease.
- Your family has a history of heart problems.
- You have diabetes.
- You suffer from arthritis.
- You have a kidney disease.
If you are over 40 years of age, you may consider seeing a healthcare professional before taking up regular exercise as well. As you age, your body naturally loses bone density, muscle mass, flexibility and strength. That is why it is so important to stay physically active when you are older.
However, those same naturally occurring physical characteristics are also the reason you should get a checkup before you begin an exercise routine. The American College of Sports Medicine also suggests seeing a doctor “before engaging in vigorous exercise” if 2 or more of the following situations apply.
- You are a man older than 45 or a woman older than 55.
- You smoke regularly, or have within the past 6 months.
- You have not exercised 3 days a week, at least 30 minutes each day, for over 3 months.
- You are obese or overweight.
- You have a high cholesterol level or high blood pressure.
When should you check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program? The tips above will help you decide whether you should consult your physician or not, but generally, one rule definitely applies – “When in doubt, check it out.” If you are unsure whether you should talk to a doctor in advance of exercising, it is always a good idea to go ahead and get a checkup.