Pumping Out Diabetes and Heart Disease

Metabolic syndrome risk lower in people who lift weights

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) When we think of exercise, we often think of activities like running or swimming. But weightlifting counts as exercise too. In fact, lifting weights may cut risks linked to a number of health problems.

Weightlifting may lower the risk of metabolic syndrome - a group of risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease.

"Stay active to prevent diabetes and heart disease."

According to Peter M. Magyari, PhD, of the University of North Florida and colleagues, "Lifting weights may play a role in reducing the prevalence and risk of metabolic syndrome among U.S. adults."

The researchers found lower rates of metabolic syndrome among people who lifted weights than among those who did not lift weights.

"Weightlifting can take many forms when put into an exercise program - from heavy weight with low reps to light weight with high reps and from slow to fast paced lifting," said James Crowell, co-owner and head trainer at Integrated Fitness.

"The beauty of lifting weights is that it really helps people get leaner and healthier and it doesn't have to make you big and bulky at all," said Crowell, who was not involved in the study.

"Intensity is the key to getting in better shape and adding resistance is very helpful in increasing your intensity assuming your technique is solid. But when done in certain ways, lifting weights can make you much stronger without adding bulk to your body. I always recommend a weight program to my clients whether they are athletic or just looking to get in better shape," he said.

The study's results showed the odds of developing metabolic syndrome were cut by 37 percent among those who lifted weights.

The rate of metabolic syndrome among those who lifted weights was 24.6 percent, compared to 37.3 percent among those who did not lift weights.

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These risk factors include:

  • large waist size (more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women)
  • high levels of triglycerides, or blood fats
  • lower levels of "good" cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • high blood sugar

People who have at least three of these risk factors are said to have metabolic syndrome.

Studies have shown resistance training - which includes weightlifting - may protect against metabolic syndrome. Research has also shown stronger muscles and greater muscle mass are linked to lower rates of metabolic syndrome. Because weightlifting boosts muscle strength and mass, the activity may also help lower rates of metabolic syndrome.

For their study, Dr. Magyari and colleagues asked participants whether they lifted weights or not.

Of the more than 5,000 participants who had blood samples, 8.8 percent said they lifted weights.

Men were almost two times more likely than women to lift weights - with 11.2 percent of men versus 6.3 percent of women saying they lifted weights.

In addition, younger people were more likely than older people to lift weights.

White and black Americans were similarly likely to lift weights. Mexican Americans, however, were the least likely to lift weights.

Wealthier people - or those at a higher socioeconomic status - were also more likely to lift weights.

"Exercise professionals should strongly encourage the activity of lifting weights among adults of all ages to promote metabolic health," the authors said.

These professionals should focus especially on people who are less likely to lift weights - such as women, older adults, Mexican Americans, and people of lower socioeconomic status.

The authors also pointed out some limitations to their study - particularly that there was a lack of detailed information on people's weightlifting and resistance exercise activities, which may include manual labor.

The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 22, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012