Does Strength Training Offer Protection Against Metabolic Syndrome?

Previous research has determined a link between metabolic syndrome and reduced muscular strength and resistance training levels. A new study aimed to determine if resistance exercise—with or without aerobic exercise—could offer protection against developing the disease.

Facilitated by The Cooper Institute® in Dallas, the study included 7,418 subjects (average age 46 years; 81% men) and followed them for up to 19 years (median follow-up was 4 years). Participants completed comprehensive examinations that included body composition, blood chemistry, blood pressure and more. They also self-reported information on exercise participation.

According to the data, 38% of respondents reported engaging in resistance exercise on a regular basis, averaging about 60–119 minutes of resistance training per week. Those who completed the greatest volume of resistance training tended to be younger, leaner and more aerobically active than those who did less strength training.

Throughout the intervention, 15% of subjects developed metabolic syndrome. After analyzing the data, the authors drew these primary conclusions:

  • Meeting the physical activity guidelines for resistance exercise seemed to offer a protective effect against metabolic syndrome.
  • Less than 1 hour per week of resistance training significantly reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome compared with no resistance exercise. More than 1 hour of resistance exercise did not provide additional benefits.
  • Meeting both resistance and aerobic exercise guidelines proved most effective and was linked with a 25% lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome compared with meeting neither guideline.

“Clinicians should routinely recommend resistance exercise training, in addition to aerobic training, for the prevention of metabolic syndrome and future cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk,” said the authors. “In addition, individuals with CVD risk factors should consider a more individualized, safe and effective exercise program under the direction of a qualified exercise professional.”

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