Node Smith, ND
A recent study suggests that resistance exercise – lifting weights – for less than an hour a week may reduce heart attack and stroke risk by 40 to 70 percent.
“People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two sets of bench presses that take less than 5 minutes could be effective,” said DC (Duck-chul) Lee, associate professor of kinesiology.
Benefits of strength training
The benefits of strength training seem to be independent of running, walking or other aerobic exercise. This means that weight training alone has the ability to lower cardiovascular risk. This is great for individuals who don’t enjoy aerobic exercise, or are unable to perform aerobic activities.
Study looked at data from almost 13,000 adults
The study looked at data from almost 13,000 adults in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. Three health outcomes were analyzed: cardiovascular events that did not result in death, all cardiovascular events including death, and any type of death. Resistance exercise reduced the risk of all three.
Lifting weights doesn’t have to mean going to the gym
Resistance or strength training can be more difficult for people. People can move more simply by biking or walking, or taking stairs rather than an elevator, but there are less everyday activities that are associated with lifting. And most people don’t have access to weight machines at their house. For this reason, often a gym membership is beneficial to incorporate strength training into one’s routine. However, it’s not the only way.
A gym membership may be convenient or enable more weight training to be possible, though any activity that is giving the muscles of the body work to do is achieving the same goal. Muscles don’t care if they are lifting weights or shoveling dirt, carrying heavy grocery bags, or performing calisthenic exercises – exercises that resist the weight of the body.
Lowering cholesterol and preventing diabetes
There are other benefits to building muscle strength, including better bone health, lowered risk of falling in older adults, and more balanced metabolism.
The current study looked at the relationship between resistance activity and diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. Both were decreased in individuals who participated in resistance exercise.
Less than a single hour a week of resistance training
Less than a single hour a week of resistance training – compared to no resistance exercise – was associated with a 29 percent decrease in developing metabolic syndrome and a 32 percent lower risk of high cholesterol. These results were independent of aerobic activity.
“Muscle is the power plant to burn calories. Building muscle helps move your joints and bones, but also there are metabolic benefits. I don’t think this is well appreciated,” Lee said. “If you build muscle, even if you’re not aerobically active, you burn more energy because you have more muscle. This also helps prevent obesity and provide long-term benefits on various health outcomes.”
Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.