Less than 9% of Americans lift weights. Considering all of the health benefits that lifting weights can provide, this statistic is an unfortunate one. Adding to those benefits, a new study from the Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida, Jacksonville indicated that those who lift weights are less likely to develop metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that includes several risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes.
Researchers for this study analyzed data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is a study of health risk factors. The responses to the survey were analyzed to see if there was a correlation between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome. There were 5,618 American adults who provided blood samples for analysis. Of those only 8.8% indicated that they lifted weights. Weight training was approximately twice as common in men as women (11.2% versus 6.3%). It was also more common for the younger generation (under 50 years old) to answer that they lifted weights.1
There are five risk factors that determine metabolic syndrome. People with at least three of these indicators are considered to have the syndrome:
- Waist circumference greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women
- High triglyceride levels
- Reduced levels of “good” cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- Elevated blood pressure
- High glucose levels
The results of the study found there was a lower occurrence of metabolic syndrome amongst the people who reported lifting weights – 24.6% compared to 37.3% in those who did not lift weights. The study also adjusted for demographic factors and determined that lifting weight was associated with a 37% reduction in the odds of having metabolic syndrome.2
Key researchers in the study concluded that lifting weights should be strongly encouraged to people of all ages by exercise professionals. Other recent studies have also linked greater muscle strength and muscle mass to lower rates of metabolic syndrome, which is consistent with the findings in this study, since lifting weights ultimately increases muscle strength and mass.
This study goes to show that although lifting weights may be more popular amongst the younger generation, lifting weights can provide health benefits to people at any age. In combination with other new research that indicates cardio can reduce your risk for both cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, perhaps a sensible approach for all ages includes both strength training and aerobic training.
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