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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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Research: A small amount of resistance training goes a long way

Recent research shows just a small amount of resistance training per week can dramatically reduce the risk of combined obesity, diabetes and hypertension

Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 8
Resistance training / photo: shutterstock.com
Resistance training / photo: shutterstock.com
Relatively small amounts of resistance exercise resulted in the highest reduction in risk

It’s widely recognised that resistance training improves body strength and physique, but a new study suggests that this form of exercise may also benefit heart health. Researchers have found that just a small amount of strength/resistance training is likely to significantly lower a person’s risk of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Each condition is risky on its own, but when all three occur together, the associated health risks grow significantly. Having the syndrome hugely increases a person’s likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Aerobic exercise has long been recommended as a preventative measure against metabolic syndrome. However, until recently, the benefits of resistance training were not so well established.

“Resistance exercise was already known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and improve bone health, but nothing was known about its effects on the development of metabolic syndrome,” says lead author Esmee Bakker of Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Resisting disease
Bakker and her research team followed 7,418 middle-aged men and women who received medical examinations between 1987 and 2006. During their examination, participants self-reported their exercise frequency and type.

“At the beginning of the study, all participants were healthy. Over the years, participants came back for follow-up examinations, and we looked at the onset of metabolic syndrome,” says Bakker.

The research team found that 1,147 participants, or 15 per cent, had developed metabolic syndrome during the follow-up period. However, they also found that doing resistance exercise dramatically reduced the risk of developing the syndrome.

Small change, big gains
“We found that two or more sessions of resistance training per week, independent of aerobic exercise, decreases the risk of metabolic syndrome,” explains Bakker. “In particular, relatively small amounts of resistance exercise – less than one hour per week – resulted in the highest reduction in risk (29 per cent) compared with no resistance exercise.

“We also found that two or more sessions of resistance exercise and at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week is superior in preventing metabolic syndrome.”

These results were independent of other healthy behaviours.

Interestingly, the researchers found that doing more than an hour of resistance training did not further decrease the risk of developing metabolic syndrome – suggesting that the optimal amount of exercise should be relatively easy for people to maintain.

* Bakker, E.A, et al. Association of resistance exercise, independent of and combined with aerobic exercise, with the incidence of metabolic syndrome. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 14 June 2017

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New research shows that a small amount of strength training per week can dramatically reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome
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