If you walk regularly for exercise – good for you – but! In addition to “cardio” training, new research is showing that strength/resistance training is key for warding off heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The latest research tells us that resistance training does much more than build strong muscles and bones.
A study published in 2017 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (MSSE) analyzed data from 35,000 women for more than a decade. (I love these studies that involve thousands of people for a long period of time.) Researchers found that those who performed resistance training had a 30 percent lower chance of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes than those who did not. This is huge!
In addition, women who performed any amount of resistance training reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease) by 17%.
Similarly, a 2019 study (also published is MSSE) found that strength training was associated with decreased cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, and increased longevity. In this study, which included 13,000 people performing resistance training for less than an hour per week was associated with roughly 40 to 70 percent decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality – independent of any aerobic exercise.
The scientific explanations for how resistance training works are too complicated for me to try to explain in this brief article, but here’s a simplified concept: Imagine you want to store your socks in a drawer. If you have a small storage bin, it’s only going to hold a certain number of socks, while if you have a larger bin, it will obviously hold more socks. Similarly, if you have small amounts of muscle, your bin for storing glucose (which the insulin in your body turns into energy) is too small, which causes serious issues. By building muscle mass, resistance training gives you larger bins with greater storage capacity to help prevent insulin resistance. The hormone insulin helps control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. With insulin resistance, the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin. Glucose can’t enter the cells as easily, so it builds up in the blood. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.
In other words, the larger your muscles, the greater your body’s capacity for glucose uptake. Increased muscle mass drives down the blood sugar circulating through your body.
So, if you are walking regularly for exercise – hooray! Hopefully this information will encourage you to add strength training to your exercise routine.
San Diego Union-Tribune
October 6, 2020