Lifting Weights Protects Against Metabolic Syndrome

People who lift weights are less likely to have metabolic syndrome, according to a study in the October issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

"Lifting weights may play a role in reducing the prevalence and risk of metabolic syndrome among US adults," the study noted.

The researchers from the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville analyzed data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). In the survey, respondents were simply asked whether they lifted weights, and the responses were analyzed for association with the presence of metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors linked to increased rates risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. People with at least three of five risk factors (large waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, reduced levels of HDL cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and high glucose levels) are considered to have metabolic syndrome.

Of 5,618 US adults who had fasting blood samples for analysis, 8.8% said they lifted weights. Lifting weights was about twice as common in men than women (11.2% vs. 6.3%). It also was more common among younger people, with those aged 50 and older doing so less frequently.

White and black Americans were about equally likely to lift weights, while Mexican Americans were least likely. People at higher socioeconomic levels also were more likely to say they lifted weights.

The cross-sectional analysis of the NHANES data found a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome among people who reported lifting weights: 24.6% compared with 37.3% in those who did not lift weights. After adjustment for demographic factors, lifting weights was associated with a 37% reduction in the odds of metabolic syndrome.

Several recent studies have evaluated the impact of exercise for prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome. Resistance exercise, including weight lifting, may have protective effects. Research has linked greater muscle strength and muscle mass to lower rates of metabolic syndrome. Since lifting weights increases muscle strength and mass, it might also help decrease the development of metabolic syndrome.

The new study provides population-level data showing that people who lift weights are less likely to have the risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome. This suggests that incorporating weight lifting or other forms of resistance exercise into physical activity programs might be an effective way to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, both for individuals and in the population.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health