Kick metabolic syndrome to the curb with strength training

by Mary C. Weaver, CSCS on March 11, 2013

strength training protects against metabolic syndrome

Color me shocked: A recently published study found that only about 6.3 percent of U.S. women over 20 reported lifting weights regularly.

I don’t have any illusions about the prevalence of couch-potatoism. But because I’m talking about fitness all the time and hanging out in gyms, I guess I would have expected the numbers to be higher. At least 10 percent?

Things look slightly better for adult men: about 11.2 percent of them said they lift at least twice a week.

I bring this up today because the study looked at one very specific benefit of resistance training: reducing our likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome.

OK, so what’s metabolic syndrome?

Glad you asked. It’s a constellation of five cardiovascular disease risk factors:

  • poor blood-sugar control or a diagnosis of diabetes
  • overweight or obesity (indicated, for women, by a waist measurement of 35 inches or more)
  • elevated blood triglycerides
  • low levels of “good” cholesterol and
  • high blood pressure.

If you have three or more of these factors, you’re considered to have metabolic syndrome.

Here’s the good news: the aforementioned study found that metabolic syndrome was 58 percent less likely to afflict those who have a regular strength-training program.

Muscle: it does a body good

The research report notes that previous studies invariably demonstrate “an inverse relationship between measured muscular strength and muscle mass and the prevalence of [metabolic syndrome].”

Translation? Having stronger, larger muscles offers protection against metabolic syndrome and its ingredients.

Not to mention that increased muscle mass makes both sexes look better and firmer, preserves balance, burns calories, strengthens bones, and gives us a better shot at remaining independent as we age.

Here are two findings that scare me: as mentioned above, women are much less likely to lift than men. And with each decade of age, the percentages of people who lift decline significantly.

Among adults ages 20 to 29, about 14.5 percent lift. In the 30 to 39 and 40 to 49 age groups, it’s just over 10 percent.

But when you look at the 50- and 60-somethings, the percentages are 5.7 and 3.9, respectively. Seriously scary!

Those are the decades when people who have an established exercise habit really need to keep it up. And those who haven’t been getting their sweat on need to start doing so.

As I say all the time, it’s never too late. Tons of studies prove that people of all ages gain strength and muscle mass when they begin intelligent resistance training. Even frail 90-year-old nursing-home dwellers.

But why wait? If you used to lift, get back in the gym this week. How about today? And if you’ve never lifted, I can help you get started.

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