To start, let’s take a gander at our heart. Did you know that strength training has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and increase blood flow? A study conducted in 2011 by International Journal of Sports Medicine states[i] “…overweight women that take up weight training improves cholesterol levels…the effect is big enough to significantly reduce the chance of having a heart attack” (Wooten et al). Overweight, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are all linked. Laymen’s terms: if you have too much fat tissue, your insulin sensitivity decreases, and the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood increases. When this happens, your liver absorbs a bit of the glucose and creates “bad” cholesterol. This cholesterol damages blood vessel, eventually leading to heart attack or some other form of cardiovascular disease. By partaking within an 8-12 week strength development program, it can be assumed that your LDL levels can decrease by ~23%, triglyceride concentration by ~16%, and non-HDL cholesterol concentration by ~20%. Is this an overwhelming improvement? No. However, continuing to follow a structured program only continues to improve your heart’s condition.
“According to cardiologists, the chance of a heart attack or other ‘nonfatal coronary heart event’ decreases by 4.4% for every milimol per litre decrease in the LDL cholesterol concentration” (Wooten et al)
Okay, now that the serious, scary stuff is out of the way. Let’s take a look at body composition what following a strength program. When you picture losing fat to look pretty, you’d generally assume aerobic capacity training and/or long steady distance (LSD) so not to tap into the phosphagen system and fast glycolysis all too much. Though you are not incorrect in assuming that, there is some pretty cool research out there produced from Epidemiologists at the University of Harvard that have generated a conclusion that those “…who do strength training keep their fat percentage lower in the long term than those who run, cycle, or do other aerobic exercise”[ii] This study examined 10,500 healthy men aged 40 – 75 over the span of 12 years. These men were divided up, appropriately, according to the level of moderate to vigorous strength training and aerobic activity the men received daily. When observed, the researchers measured their waist circumference. I’m sure you’re wondering, “why the waist circumference?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
“Because aging is associated with the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight is insufficient for the study of healthy aging. Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adult.”[iii] Mekary et al
What this means is, weight is an arbitrary number that dictates your specific relationship with gravity. Are there other parameters needed to show optimal health? Yes, however, by measuring the waist circumference, a hypothetical statement of an individual’s general health may be generated. Meaning, if you’re waistline is quite large, it may be assumed that you’re unhealthy and have poor body composition.
So, what can be taken from this? If you want to improve body composition and improve heart health, strength training is a solid route to choose. Does that mean that you should forgo all other variations of training? Absolutely NOT! Strength training, on top of aerobic development, can aid you in achieving that optimal health goal.
This peer-reviewed article was designed to open your eyes to other benefits to strength training and how they coincide with strength development. Strength training is a wonderful tool where, if implemented correctly, you, as an athlete, can really prosper physically and physiologically.
[i] Wooten, Joshua S. et al. “Resistance Exercise and Lipoproteins in Postmenopausal Women.” International Journal of Sports Medicine 32.1 (2011): 7–13. PMC. Web. 26 June 2015.
[ii] Strength training fights belly fat better than aerobic training. http://www.ergo-log.com/strength-training-fights-belly-fat-better-than-aerobic-training.html. 26 June 2015
[iii] Mekary, Rania et al. “Weight training, aerobic physical activities, and long-term waist circumference change in men.” Wiley Online Library 23.2 (2014). 26 June 2015