"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

A $6.00 (Partial)-Fix for Our Healthcare Woes

How an inexpensive resistance band can have such an unlikely potential!

I must be out of my mind to make such a claim. Or perhaps not.

The collective wisdom is clear: solving a country’s healthcare woes is a precarious and challenging task. Resolving it is close to inconceivable. Offering simplistic and sensational solutions can be an indication of lack of insight, if not downright insensible. If researchers, physicians, health insurers, administrators, politicians and academics can’t come to an agreement on fixing the system, what hope is there for for John and Jane Public?

Traditionally, changes in organizations and corporations to fix ailments, happen from top-to-bottom, down the ranks of command. But if new measures that are implemented, don’t alter the status quo, how can any effective and measurable change take place? If a program failed last year and nothing inherently is changed, why will it work now? We are so busy with treating the costly effects of defective healthcare systems and programs, that it leaves little room for addressing and reversing the causes.

Perhaps it is time, perhaps it is possible, to open the door to inexpensive, innovative, yet effective interventions.

Human aging (if left unchecked), accelerates from the 4th decade with skeletal muscle atrophy, weakness and functional impairment (sarcopenia.) The strength loss is 1% per year, and the decline results from:

    • oxidative stress
    • inflammation
    • mitochondrial dysfunction
    • disuse

Inactivity leads to loss of muscle mass and strength, along with loss of bone mineral density (BMD.) Adipose mass increases. This results in an increased risk of chronic conditions:

    • fractures
    • obesity
    • type II diabetes
    • coronary heart disease
    • hypertension
    • depression, and anxiety
    • dementia
    • certain cancers.

If this generalized decline is allowed to continue during the ensuing decades, it will intimately affect mental function. Memory, decision making skills, psychosocial well-being and cognitive function, will all suffer.

The first time I held a resistance band in my hands, was several years ago. I was convinced it was something only for sick people and to be used by physiotherapists for rehabilitation of patients. I soon learned that I was wrong.

The resistance band (stretch band) is manufactured from latex rubber or latex-free stretchable material. (The latex-free bands are made of FDA approved synthetic polymer material.) It comes in a variety of often vibrant colors, indicative of its thickness and resistance. The types of resistance bands are: basic resistance bands that come in a strip, and tube resistance bands, that come in tubing form. (The latter has a wider application and often comes with handgrips.) The term “band” is used interchangeably. The resistance bands are also available in resistance loops.

Resistance bands resemble a stretchy rope. TheraBandR colors their bands: yellow, red, green, blue, black and grey; with yellow having the lowest resistance. A length of 4 – 5 feet is sufficient. The basic resistance band indeed costs between $ 2.05 and $ 7.00, depending on the thickness and manufacturer. Buying in bulk will also lower costs. Other quality resistance bands are: SPRI XertubeR, Prosource XTREMER, Black MountainR, AylioR and BodylasticsR. Some commercial resistance bands are available without any logo or insignia. More complex bands sell at a higher price range.

How do resistance bands work?
    • Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles will overcome a resistance force, when required to do so. That provides muscle-building tension.
    • By doing it repetitively and frequently, muscles will grow and become stronger
    • Use the body as anchor or a fixed anchor: by pulling the band, resistance is encountered, which over time will strengthen the particular muscles
    • A specific exercise, such as a biceps curl, is repeated 10 times, that is one set.
    • Basic exercises include: biceps, triceps, shoulder, back and trunk muscles and thigh, calf and leg exercises.
    • Over time work up to 3 sets (of 10 reps each)
    • By shortening the band length, the resistance increases
    • Next upgrade to a successive color: e.g. TheraBand—upgrade from red to green
    • Breath normal during exercise—don’t hold your breath
    • Easy to use: use body as anchor: standing, seated or on floor
    • Other anchors: door-anchor, a fixed sturdy object, or a wall anchor
    • Tension is constant, keeps constant tension in muscles
    • Incorporates more stabilizer muscles than with free weights
    • Ideally, give muscles groups a 48-hour rest
    • Suggestion: 3 x per week resistance
    • On alternating days to aerobic exercises: 3x per week
    • For muscle to grow, you have to push to the limit. Challenge yourself
    • Variation of exercises is recommended: increases muscle growth and improvement
    • Ideal for youth, men, women and seniors and the elderly

Some research points at achieving similar strength gains with a single set of exercise, performed to the point of fatigue, compared to multiple sets. That been said, higher intensity with a shorter rest period is often better.

Pros of using resistance bands: (Strength exercises)
    • They’re inexpensive ($2.05 – $7.00 plus: for the basic resistance band—depending on the brand and design)
    • In can be used ANYWHERE:
    • Home
    • Office
    • Outdoors
    • Gym
    • Nursing home
    • Hospital
    • On vacation
    • Is immediately available
    • Good for beginners and for advanced programs
    • Used by physiotherapists in rehabilitation following surgery or injuries
    • Used by physiotherapists in hospital to reverse and prevent sarcopenia in frail and deconditioned patients
    • Used in prehabilitation to bolster patients preoperatively
    • Small size: it’s your gym in your pocket or purse!
    • Travel friendly: rolls up, needs small space and weighs little
    • Lightweight: can’t crush your foot if dropped
    • Easy to change the angle—involving different muscles—easy for variations
    • Improves balance
    • Improves flexibility
    • Improves posture
    • Improves coordination
    • Improves range of motion
    • Improves proprioceptive stimulation
    • Improves strength: upper, lower body & core
    • Improves chronic pain
    • Improves chronic diseases, such as: Type II diabetes, obesity, hypertension, coronary heart disease, depression, anxiety, heart failure
    • Improves bone-density and decreases osteoporosis
    • Decreases osteo-arthritic joint pain
    • Increases mental capacity, especially if combined with aerobic exercises (elderly)
    • Improves mental state and sense of wellbeing
    • Improves sleep at night
    • If preferred, can do intense and strenuous workout—advanced programs

Cons of using resistance bands:
    • Wear down over time—depending of intensity and frequency of use
    • Can be limiting for serious weight and strength trainers, who wish to progress more
    • The resistance bands at some point become finite in increasing their resistance. It is not possible to add small weight increments, such as with free weights.
    • General ignorance (medical community, policy makers, health insurers, public) about its benefits and applications—this is remediable.

Why should policy makers, the medical community and the public be concerned about rising healthcare costs?

Because of the numbers, the cost, and the personal and societal impact and burden:

    • Worldwide the number of people > 60 years is growing faster than any other age group. At present 688 million, estimated to be 2 billion by 2050
    • In 2012 the US had 43 million > 65 years (will be 84 million by 2050)
    • Sarcopenia-related health issues cost the US $ 18 billion per year
    • In 2014 the US had 21 million people with diagnosed type 2 diabetes (+ 8 million undiagnosed = 29 million)
    • Direct cost for US in 2014 for Diabetes: $ 176 billion
    • Indirect cost for US in 2014 for Diabetes: $ 69 billion (disability, work loss, premature death)
    • Total cost diabetes: $ 245 billion per year (for US alone—population 350 million)
    • In 2015 > 78 million US adults are obese
    • Obesity-related medical costs in US in 2008: $ 147 billion. (Rises $ 48 million per year)

If the increasing number of older people are allowed to progressively decline and deteriorate and lose function—disability, dependency, and chronic diseases will increase. This decrease in health status increases the risk for falls and hip fractures.

The cost for a single hip fracture is between $ 10,000 – $ 50,000, depending on pre-fall status of the individual. Of these, 25 % plus will die within one year of fracturing their hip, adding further costs and suffering.

The most common modifiable risk factors for falls:

    • muscle weakness
    • balance deficits
    • gait instability
    • can be corrected with a resistance band.

We now see type 2 diabetes in pre-teens, adolescents and young adults. A disease that used to show its face only after age forty.

Resistance bands can be purchased at most shops and businesses that sell sports equipment, as well as online.

Resistance bands don’t require a gym to be used.

The cost of ONE resistance band is: about $ 6.00 (SIX DOLLARS)

Exercise consists generally of:

    • aerobic
    • strength
    • balance
    • flexibility training

Resistance bands address the last three of the four.

It is strongly recommended to get at least 30 minutes per day of aerobic activity, 3 – 5 x per week. (Such as walking, cycling, dancing, swimming.) This is in addition to strengthening exercises, at least 2 – 3 x per week.

Resistance training improves cardiovascular fitness, metabolic health and BMD. According to Hurley and Roth, “two decades of age-associated strength loss can be regained in two months of resistance exercise.” For that to take place, effort will be required and nutritional status optimized. Taking a whey protein supplement, following exercise is strongly recommended for improved muscle growth.

By performing resistance training (RT) or resistance exercises, a person can ward off many of the chronic conditions. RT will improve their muscle mass and muscle strength, irrespective of age.
Why is so little done to address, reverse, and slow the tsunami down?
    • Physicians, policy makers, administrators, health insurers, politicians are not informed and educated on less expensive alternatives
    • Few policy makers have completed a resistance band workshop
    • Many don’t know what a resistance band is
    • Medical students do not receive training and teaching in kinesiology and culinary medicine (One month of each will suffice)
    • Nursing students do not receive training in kinesiology
    • Few physicians have completed a resistance band workshop
    • Few administrators have completed a resistance band workshop

It is because we do not believe a simple $ 6.00 resistance band can help prevent a large part of the unending suffering we witness every day in our hospitals, clinics, consulting rooms, communities and nursing homes.

Is this belief based on knowledge, medical evidence, training and personal experience? Or is it based on holding onto medical dogma, medical tradition, support of the status quo, belief that only complex, outdated, inefficient and expensive programs should be supported?

It is politically powerful to showcase how “much is done,” merely by increasing spending of taxpayers’ dollars on the costly complications of:

    • Sarcopenia (poor quality of life, isolation, decline, falls, no contribution to society)
    • Hip fractures (25% will die in less than a year, after prolonged suffering)
    • Dementia (Patient, care-givers and society carry the burden)
    • Personal care homes (Allowing preventable and reversible decline)
    • Depression (Suffering, costs, disability, isolation)
    • Obesity (quality of life, develop most chronic diseases, costs)
    • Type 2 diabetes (quality of life, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, misery, costs)
    • Heart attacks (death, medical cripple, quality of life, medication and treatment costs)
    • Hypertension (strokes, heart failure, kidney failure, medication cost)

How long will we continue prescribing two to three medications for every organ that is affected due to lifestyle habits, leaving a patient with 5 – 20 prescription medications? Can we justify to not prescribe a $ 6.00 device, which has this (incredible) ability:

    • saving their life?
    • save their hip?
    • spare their heart?
    • save their pancreas?
    • spare their mind?
    • spare their kidney?
    • spare their leg?
    • enable them to sail smoother through an elective surgery and recover and heal faster?

If we don’t spend the $ 6.00 and teach people how to use a (silly old) resistance band, we will be forced to spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the ensuing years, per patient. And that does include the personal cost and suffering.

The latter is what we are presently doing.

We are in agreement that solving a country’s healthcare woes is a delicate, precarious and challenging task. Suggesting that the liberal use of a $ 6.00 resistance band can contribute to (partially) fixing healthcare, is not the offering of a simplistic and sensational solution.

It may perhaps be an indication of a degree of insight, if not being downright sensible. Let’s choose to do the insightful. Let’s choose the sensible. In the process, we will save millions of dollars, but more important: we will empower people, from all ages and walks of life, to live fuller lives, continue being contributing members of society and lead healthier, more productive, and happier lives.

Utopia? No. It’s about becoming informed and making a $ 6.00 annual investment.

Remember, if you’re not the proud owner of a resistance band, go get one! Don’t leave the house without “your gym in a bag.” It may just save your life or somebody else’s.

(Disclaimer: I receive(d) no financial compensation in any shape, way or form from any resistance band manufacturer. I train with bands myself, and witness their positive impact on people, young and old, and its application in fitness facilities and in the wider community.)

Question: What is ONE practical solution you can think of, for less than $ 20 per person, to fix some healthcare woe? Let me know in the comment section.


  1. (Accessed Jan 13, 2016)
  2. PLoS One, 2007 (Accessed Jan 15, 2016)
  3. J Sports Med 2014 (Accessed Jan 15, 2016)
  4. Wroblewski AP, Amati F, Smiley MA, Goodpaster B, Wright V. Chronic Exercise preserve lean muscle in master athletes. Phys Sportsmed. 2011 Sep; 39(3): 172-8. doi: 10.381/psm.2011.09.1933
  5. Hurley B. F., Roth S. M. Strength training in the elderly: effects on risk factors for age-related diseases. Sports Medicine. 2000;30(4):249–268. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200030040-00002
  6. Best practice fall prevention exercise program in older adults. BMC Geriatr. 2013; 13: 105. Published online 2013 Oct 9.
  7. (Accessed Jan 15, 2016)

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