Resistance Training for Longevity and Health

Resistance Training for Longevity and Health

23 Jul 2015  |  0 Comments

Having gone through the aerobics craze of the 80s and 90s, people are once again turning to resistance training as the best way to ensure long term health and longevity. This comes at a time where the Australian government has finally officially recognized the health benefits of weight, including a recommendation that Australians perform resistance training multiple days per week as part of a well-rounded physical activity regime (alongside some aerobic activity and mobility-specific training).

There are many areas in which resistance training benefits your health, including just about every parameter of wellbeing you could imagine. Read on for a brief overview of what the scientific literature tells us about training with weights.

How more muscle mass can help you achieve health

Let’s start with describing a typical overweight profile: more body fat usually = more systemic inflammation and poorer glucose management = greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, mental disorders and autoimmune conditions.

Now, let’s look at a quick summary of the current literature with regards to muscle mass. More muscle = greater metabolic rate (ie greater energy expended at rest), faster healing times from surgery, greater cancer survival rates, better sleep, lower incidence of degenerative diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis and memory loss.

Why training with weights equals better health outcomes

  • Firstly, it’s important to recognize the most obvious effect of resistance training: increased muscle mass and strength. This is fundamental to your health. Greater muscle mass improves metabolic rate, enhances coordination, protects bones and joints, and provides a hormonal advantage to glucose metabolism.
  • Resistance training is also associated with greater bone mineral density, meaning you’re less likely to fracture bones or otherwise injure yourself when doing physical activity. It also means that those of you who might be concerned about osteoporosis, which affects both men and women, should strongly consider weight training.
  • Lifting weights has favourable metabolic adaptations for body composition; in other words, it helps you to stay lean and mean. We all know that higher fat mass contributes to metabolic diseases and can increase your risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.

Building and maintaining muscle is a hugely energy-consumptive process: the protein you ingest is broken down into amino acids that are used as the bricks to build and maintain muscle mass, and the energy derived from fats and carbohydrates is selectively put to work in fueling this process. We go into this more in depth in another article on resistance training and fat loss!

  • Training your muscles helps ward off risk factors in metabolic syndrome, as well as many other diseases. It’s been shown in the literature that resistance training can be used specifically in the prevention or treatment of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity.There are multiple biochemical mechanisms that account for this. For example, resistance training can help prevent the onset of diabetes due to its insulin-sensitizing effects. Type 2 diabetes is caused by extreme insulin resistance – meaning that your muscle cells are resistant to insulin, which is supposed to chaperone blood glucose into your cells to be burned as energy.

Research has shown that resistance training specifically upregulates a particular type of glucose transporter called GLUT4 in the muscles – allowing blood glucose to be soaked up and used by muscle cells independent of insulin signaling. Insulin resistance is a major risk factor in cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, inflammation and obesity.

  • Strength training also shows improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
  • Resistance training improves sleep quality, a fundamental element of health that is directly related to memory, reflexes, cognitive performance and a multitude of factors related to your perception of hunger, pain and emotions. If you’re looking to improve job performance, or even just maintain your memory and keep your mind sharp, you need to strongly consider getting in the weights room!

Sleep deprivation is a huge problem that can wreak havoc on your health. It can affect nutrient partitioning during weight loss (meaning incoming energy is more likely to be converted into fat than lean tissue), increase hunger, impair problem solving, disrupt insulin sensitivity, disrupt testosterone levels, increase stress hormone output…. the list goes on.

Long story short, weight training has been shown to improve sleep quality, which has secondary effects on just about every other health parameter you can name.

Interestingly, although the process of breaking down muscle via training is an inflammatory process, the resulting effects on the brain are actuallyanti­-inflammatory. This has vast implications for the prevention of age-related memory loss.

This article could go on for hundreds of pages, but to summarize the body of evidence, renowned exercise physiology researcher Dr Wayne Westcott says it best in his 2012 review of the literature: “Resistance training is medicine”.

Broeder CE, Burrhus KA, Svanevik LS, Wilmore JH. The effects of either high-intensity resistance or endurance training on resting metabolic rate. Am J Clin Nutr 1992; 55(4): 802−810

Byrne HK, Wilmore JH. The effects of a 20-week exercise training program on resting metabolic rate in previously sedentary, moderately obese women. Int J Sport Nutr Exer Metab 2001; 11(1): 15−31.

Ferris LT, Williams JS, Shen CL, O’Keefe KA, Hale KB. Resistance Training Improves Sleep Quality in Older Adults a Pilot Study. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2005;4(3):354-360.

Goldberg L, Elliot DL, Schutz RW, Kloster FE. Changes in lipid and lipoprotein levels after weight training. J Amer Med Assoc 1984; 252(4): 504−506. 16. Hurley BF, Hagberg JM, Goldberg AP, Seals DR, Ehsani AA,

Brennan RE, et al. Resistive training can reduce coronary risk factors without altering VO2max or percent body fat. Med Sci Sport Exer 1988; 20(2): 150−154.

Pollock ML, Vincent KR. Resistance training for health. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest. December 1996; Series 2, No. 8.

Pollock ML, Evans WJ. Resistance training for health and disease. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999;31:10–11.

Prabhakaran B, Dowling EA, Branch JD, Swain DP, Leutholtz BC. Effects of 14 weeks of resistance training on lipid profiles and body fat percentage in premenopausal women. Br J Sports Med 1999; 33(3): 190−195.

Pratley R, Nicklas B, Rubin M, Miller J, Smith A, Smith M, Hurley B, Goldberg A. Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr old men. J Appl Physiol. 1994;76:133–137.

Holten et al, “Strength training increases insulin-mediated glucose uptake, GLUT4 content, and insulin signaling in skeletal muscle in patients with type 2 diabetes,” Diabetes, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 294–305, 2004.

Hordern et. al., “Exercise prescription for patients with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: a position statement from Exercise and Sport Science Australia,” Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 25–31, 2012.

Ouchi et al, “Adipokines in inflammation and metabolic disease,” Nature Reviews Immunology, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 85–97, 2011.

Phillips et al, “Resistance training at eight-repetition maximum reduces the inflammatory milieu in elderly women,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, vol. 42, no. 2, pp. 314–325, 2010.

Seguin R., Nelson M.E. (2003) The benefits of strength training for older adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 25, 141-149

Strasser et al. , “Resistance training in the treatment of the metabolic syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of resistance training on metabolic clustering in patients with abnormal glucose metabolism,” Sports Medicine, vol. 40, no. 5, pp. 397–415, 2010.

Umpierre et al., “Physical activity advice only or structured exercise training and association with HbA1c levels in type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis,”Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 305, no. 17, pp. 1790–1799, 2011.

Wallace MB, Mills BD, Browning CL. Effects of cross-training on markers of insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia. Med Sci Sport Exer 1997; 29(9): 1170−1176.

Westcott, W. (2012). Resistance Training is Medicine. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 11(4), 209-216.