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Another Health Benefit of Resistance Training?

Jurca R, Lamonte MJ, Barlow CE, Kampert JB, Church TS, Blair SN. Association of muscular strength with incidence of metabolic syndrome. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2005; 37: 1849-1855.

Recent research has documented the health benefits of resistance training beyond increases in strength, muscle mass, power, and endurance.

Resistance training can help prevent and manage high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and overweight and mild obesity. Research also has shown that greater muscular strength was associated with lower risk for premature death in men and women.

Similar findings pertain to the metabolic syndrome. In men, higher strength levels are associated with a lower rate of the metabolic syndrome.

The current research assessed whether strength and engaging in resistance training can prevent the metabolic syndrome.

The metabolic syndrome is becoming increasing common in the United States and other developed countries. It is strongly associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Having three of five of the following risk factors leads to the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome:
  • abdominal obesity (large waist circumference)
  • high triglycerides
  • low high density lipoprotein (low HDL’s)
  • high blood pressure
  • high fasting glucose.
The study involved 3233 men (average age=~43) who were part of the larger Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. Muscular strength was measured by a one repetition maximum in a machine bench press and leg press. The weight lifted was then divided by a man’s body weight to derive a strength score. Men were then placed into four strength groups from low to high.

Strength has a large genetic component. However, prior research in the study had shown that higher levels of strength were associated with active, ongoing resistance training.

The men received a state-of-the-art, head to toe physical exams and were followed-up for an average of 6.7 years. Part of the follow-up exams, assessed the new presence (‘incidence’) of the metabolic syndrome.

Across age and body mass groups (weight per height, BMI), the group with the highest level of strength compared to the group with the lowest level of strength had a 35% to 45% lower risk of developing the metabolic syndrome.

The Bottom-Line

Years ago, we may have believed that we were healthy despite regularly engaging in resistance training. Now, recent studies indicate that resistance is one of the most important things you do for your health.