Why strength training may reduce chronic disease risk

The connection between strength training and good health just keeps getting stronger. A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found an association between strength training and lowering the risk of premature death from chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. This review of studies showed a 10% to 17% reduction in early death in people who incorporated pumping iron or using resistance bands in their workouts.

Why strength training helps protect against chronic disease

Engaging large muscle mass areas (legs, arms, abs, back) when working out is more than just getting toned and trim. There’s much more going on skin-deep that you don’t see. 

Lifting weights or using resistance bands triggers a reaction within the body that leads to health parameter improvements that likely wouldn’t occur if strength training was avoided.  

 Here is a look at why your risk of chronic disease tumbles when strengthening muscle mass:

  • Lowers blood pressure – As you expand muscle mass, guess what? Your body is busy building more blood vessels for the blood to flow through.  The more blood vessels available for carrying oxygen-rich blood throughout the body results in less pressure on your heart, lungs, and kidneys, helping lower blood pressure.


  • Reduces blood sugar – People with diabetes know that exercise demands the body to use up excess blood sugar in the bloodstream. The more muscle mass, the larger the surface area available for the body to store blood glucose, reducing the amount of sugar circulating in the bloodstream.


  • Inhibits chronic inflammation – Chronic inflammation, or long-term inflammation that lasts for months or even years, is associated with chronic disease development. In fact, for people carrying excess body weight, certain fat cells send signals throughout the body to increase inflammation.  But, by losing weight and getting in shape through weight training, chronic inflammation reduces, and so does the risk of chronic diseases.


  • Provides a calorie-burn – The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn, even at rest. After lifting weights, there’s an “after-burn” that can last up to 72 hours later, burning calories. Calorie burn helps reduce fat mass and leads to healthier body weight. 


How frequently should you do strength training?


Before beginning a strength training workout, get your doctor’s blessing, especially for anyone who has not participated in regular exercise for some time.  Starting with resistance bands is advisable if you are a beginner at strength training. While they may not appear to do much, resistance bands have shown to provide similar gains in strength as dumbbells or other gym equipment. 


Avoid starting cold; in other words, do a warm-up and cool-down each time before strength training. Warming up helps circulation, getting the blood flowing to the muscles.  This helps make them more pliable and less likely to get tears. Marching in place and windmills with your arms are dynamic moves helping warm up the body. Even going on a brisk walk is a good warm-up before lifting weights. 


Once your strength training session, it’s time for a cool-down. Cooling the body down is best served with static stretching where you hold a position for up to 60 seconds helps reduce pain, improves athletic performance, and elongates muscles creating a toned look. 


Everyone wants to know, how often should I do strength training? The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends between 30 to 60 minutes of strength training weekly.  This can be easily done by doing 30-minute sessions twice a week. Or, you could do strength training workouts lasting 10-minutes long, six days a week for a total of 60 minutes. 


Start slowly if it’s been a while since lifting weights or practicing strength training. It’s better to do a 10-15 minute session once a week, and when ready, gradually increase the duration and add one other day to lift weights. Starting too quickly can result in sore muscles or an injury.  


Main takeaway


Strength training done regularly may help lower risk of chronic diseases. Besides staying healthier, you’ll also become stronger, leaner, have more energy, and have better balance. So, to prevent your muscles from atrophying or becoming weaker or smaller, take advantage of strength training. You won’t regret it!


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911. 

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