Less than one hour of resistance exercise training per week lowers the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar). This was shown by a study involving more than 7,000 participants from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) in the USA. The beneficial effects of resistance exercise were independent from the amount of aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling. An international team of researchers, led by Esmée Bakker of Radboudumc published these findings on June 13 on the website of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Moderate volumes of aerobic exercise training yield important health benefits. Previous studies showed that only 15 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise can lower the risk of premature mortality from cardiovascular disease. Research on the health benefits of exercise is usually based on endurance training, such as running and cycling. Resistance exercise, or weight training was already known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes or to improve bone health, but nothing was known about its effects on the development of metabolic syndrome.
Radboudumc researchers are now collaborating with British, Spanish and American colleagues to study the effects of resistance exercise in 7,418 middle-aged men and women aged who underwent preventive examinations. in a hospital in the United States between 1987 and 2006. At the beginning of the study, all participants were healthy without metabolic syndrome. The researchers looked at the onset of metabolic syndrome.
An hour per week at the gym
During the study, 15 percent of the participants developed metabolic syndrome. Participants who complied with resistance exercise guidelines (two or more sessions per week) had a 17 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Resistance exercise for even less than one hour per week was associated with a 29 percent lower risk. The analysis did account for influence of other healthy behaviors, such as smoking and regular endurance training.
More intensive resistance exercise training was not associated with any additional health benefits. It also made little difference if people did resistance exercise only on weekends or spread throughout the week. Doing both resistance and aerobic exercises provided the greatest benefits as the best exercise modality for the prevention of metabolic syndrome.
"Few studies have reported on the health effects of resistance exercise, and this is the first such study concerning metabolic syndrome," stated Esmée Bakker, the lead author of the study. "Our results indicate that a modest amount of resistance exercise, such as two 30-minute sessions per week, has the most beneficial effect. These findings should be included in the standard medical recommendations for preventing metabolic syndrome and future cardiovascular disease."