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Study Confirms Weight Lifting Helps Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

A recent research study conducted by the Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida in Jacksonville, confirms that lifting weights may play a role in reducing the prevalence and risk of metabolic syndrome.

The study was published in the October issue of “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,” which is the official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

While I’m by no means surprised by the findings, I think this deserves a closer look on just why strength training is so valuable.

More after the jump…

As a Charleston personal trainer who specializes in body transformation for middle-age adults, I’ve found metabolic syndrome to be a primary concern for this demographic.

Here’s a quick recap if you’re not familiar with what exactly “metabolic syndrome” really is.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as a group of risk factors linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.

Individuals with at least three out of the following five risk factors are considered to have metabolic syndrome:

  1. Waist circumference more than 40 inches for males and 35 inches for females.
  2. Elevated triglyceride levels.
  3. Reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (aka HDL or “good cholesterol”).
  4. Hypertension (aka “high blood pressure”).
  5. Elevated blood glucose levels.

Here is what the study found.

This cross-sectional analysis of the 1999-2004 NHANES data found a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome among people who reported lifting weights: 24.6 percent, compared to 37.3 percent in those who did not lift weights. After adjustment for demographic factors, lifting weights was associated with a 37 percent reduction in the odds of metabolic syndrome. Go to story.

So what is it about resistance training that helps people offset the development of metabolic syndrome?

Taking all the obvious benefits of exercise off the table for a second, the primary reason in my opinion that weight training is so beneficial has to do with blood sugar regulation.

Excess blood sugar is a primary culprit behind inflammation and metabolic disturbances that lead to insulin resistance and other hormonal imbalances.

One of the best ways to improve insulin sensitivity, other than improving your diet, is to perform regular resistance training. The reason is that the more metabolically active your lean muscle is, the better it becomes at storing and utilizing blood glucose.

Cardiovascular exercise, while certainly beneficial, doesn’t improve the capacity for glycogen storage in lean muscle like strength training does.

Simply put, if you want to prevent or reverse metabolic syndrome, you’ll want to have what I call “a concern for muscle.”

I see this time and again with middle age adults who want to lose weight and improve their health markers by doing repeated bouts of cardiovascular exercise, but not strength training.

This may work ok when you’re in your twenties and early thirties, but not so much when you get into your forties and beyond.

Hormonal changes and a host of other age-related factors contribute to the loss of lean muscle mass unless strength training is performed on a regular basis.

So while walking, getting on an elliptical trainer, and the like are all great ideas, you’ll want to put strength training at the top of your exercise hierarchy.

If you’re new to weight training, I’d recommend starting with resistance band, bodyweight, or TRX suspension strap exercises for example first. You simply want to develop joint stability and proper movement patterns before progressing to loaded resistance training with free weights.

This is the progression we use at my Shaping Concepts, Charleston personal training studio. The idea is to allow for a safe and effective progression to higher intensity weight training.

The objective for individuals without contraindications is to progress to burst training routines that incorporate compound weight training exercises. Think along the lines of squats, rows, bench presses, overhead pressing, dead-lifts, etc.

Working the larger muscle groups in this way will have the most benefit with improving insulin sensitivity.

If you’d like help putting together a personalized fitness routine for your unique needs, we have a wide variety of services available at Shaping Concepts to assist you.

You don’t necessarily have to become a personal training client either, as we have program design for in-home and gym workouts as well.

See our services and rates page for more information.

And as always if I can be of assistance in any way, even with just a question, please don’t hesitate to contact me personally.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness coaching in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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