How to choose a resistance band and use it properly

If you like the convenience of getting a workout any time and anywhere, without going to the gym, you may want a resistance band.

Resistance bands are giant elastic bands that you can stretch to work your muscles, in the way you use weight machines in the gym.

But they are light and portable.

They can be used to work out the entire body, with different resistance levels.

They can also be used for rehabilitating injured muscles, as recommended by physiotherapists.

WHERE TO BUY

Resistance bands are available at hospital pharmacies, fitness stores and online.

At Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and Changi General Hospital (CGH), for instance, you can buy the Thera-Band. This established brand from the United States is the most popular make here.

Mr Eric Xu, the director of its main local distributor, Fu Kang Healthcare Supply, estimated that it has 60 to 70 per cent of the market share here.

Other brands include Sanctband and Reebok.

Ms Elaine Gomez, manager of rehabilitative services at CGH, said: "Essentially, they all do the same thing - provide a means of progressive strength and resistance training."

The retail pharmacy at CGH also carries the Thera-Tube, which is a rubber tube attached with handle grips.

"As both forms serve the same function, physiotherapists will prescribe whichever best meets patients' needs," Ms Gomez said.

For example, a patient doing an exercise in which he has to hold the band in his hands may find a Thera-Tube more comfortable.

Those with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder that often affects the hands and feet, may prefer the Loopz Fitness band.

They find the band designed by celebrity Wong Li Lin, which has multiple loops for the hands or feet, easier to use than bands with handles, said Mr Gino Ng, a physiotherapist at Sports Solutions who began using it three years ago.

At KTPH's Able Studio, the Thera-Band costs $6.47 to $10.50, depending on the resistance level. The Thera-Band and Thera-Tube cost $6.74 to $15.02 each at CGH.

The Loopz Fitness band retails at a promotional price of $59.90 at 32 SingPost outlets.

HOW TO CHOOSE A BAND

Resistance bands come in various colours to denote their resistance levels.

Those with lower resistance - the easily stretchable bands - are usually in lighter colours, while those that are harder to stretch are typically in darker colours such as black, or silver and gold.

The tan Thera-Band has the lowest resistance, followed by yellow and red. On the other end of the scale, the gold-coloured Thera-Band has the highest resistance.

Elderly people, those who are weaker and those just starting on an exercise programme should start with the lighter bands, said Ms Gomez.

People under a therapist's care will have the band strength prescribed for them and can progress on to higher resistance.

A way to increase the resistance without buying a new band is to shorten the band, say, by doubling it, said Ms Gomez.

Six different levels of resistance can be created using the Loopz Fitness band, depending on which parts of the band the hands and feet are placed, said Wong.

People allergic to latex can get this band, which is made of elasticised yarn, or bands made of synthetic rubber.

Typically, a therapist or fitness instructor will teach you how to use the band. Therapists may use it as part of a comprehensive programme that also includes free weights (weights you hold in your hands) and body weight exercises.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you do resistance exercise two or three days in a week, in addition to cardiovascular workouts, said Mr Gregory Fam, principal physiotherapist at the department of rehabilitative services at KTPH.

You can use resistance bands, free weights, machines or body weight. Target each major muscle group with an appropriate exercise and do eight to 12 repetitions, he said.

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR BAND

How long a band lasts depends on its usage and how it is taken care of.

Bands that are not stored properly can degrade or tear and become weak. Bands should be stored away from direct of sunlight, said Ms Gomez.

"Bands can be washed with water and light detergent, after which they should be dried indoors," she said.

Apply talcum powder to keep the band from sticking to itself, she said.

Users should also examine the band regularly to ensure that it is in a good condition as small nicks or holes can eventually cause the band or tube to snap, she added.

With proper care and storage, the resistance bands should last for several years, Mr Fam said.

joyceteo@sph.com.sg


Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.