Strength and Your Health

If you’re reading this article, attaining and maintaining good health over the entire course of your life is probably important to you. Specifically, you probably want to avoid disease and be able to perform all the hobbies and activities that you wish to do. So what general impact do both muscular strength as well as the actual practice of strength training have on health?

A study conducted at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas, looked at the relationship between muscular strength and long-term risk of disease in men [1]. In total, 8,672 men participated, between the ages of 20 and 80. At the start of the study, each participant performed one-repetition maximum tests for the bench press and leg press. These tests are generally considered good ways to represent the muscular strength of the upper and lower body while maintaining testing simplicity and efficiency.

The scores of the bench press and leg press one-rep maximums were combined to form one overall “strength score” for each participant. The men were then grouped into thirds based on their overall strength scores (top third, middle third, and lower third). Comprehensive medical evaluations were also performed at the start of the study to make sure no detrimental health conditions already existed.

After an average follow-up of 19 years, deaths were surveyed. All three groups were assessed by risk of death from any cause, as well as risk of death from either heart disease or cancer.

Before getting into the results, it’s well known that people who strength train tend to have better overall health habits than people who don’t. For example, strength training participants are more likely to be physically active, smoke less, and eat healthier diets. To minimize the interference of other causative factors like these, the researchers adjusted the data to eliminate the influence of physical activity level, age, smoking status, alcohol intake, body mass index, and family history of heart disease.

With that in mind, the level of muscular strength each participant started with was strongly associated with better long-term health. Compared to the lowest strength level group, the middle group had a 28% lower death rate from any cause or death due to cancer only. The middle group also experienced 26% fewer deaths from heart disease. The death rates for the strongest group were very similar to the middle group in all three categories. The lesson here is that for health, men with even a moderate amount of strength have a greatly reduced risk of early death.

A research review from the University of Maryland [2] was more comprehensive than the Cooper Institute study. The researchers gathered 171 studies that mostly included both men and women as well as a wider array of diseases and disease markers. The studies examined included randomized-control trials (which are studies that can prove causation) and observational studies (such as the Cooper Institute study, where researchers can pinpoint associations but not causes).

After condensing the results of the studies, the researchers found that performing strength training has a “moderate to large” impact on improving the following factors:

  • Disease markers (such as triglycerides, blood sugar, etc.)
  • Overall risk of heart disease
  • Ability to do daily activities and overall physical function
  • General weakness and fatigue

The results also showed that strength training has a smaller but positive impact on the following conditions:

  • Blood pressure
  • Bone density
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (specifically the amount of pain and inflammation)
  • Metabolic rate
  • Cognitive function (including those with dementia)

Overall, the research indicates that having even a moderate level of muscular strength provides a lower risk of premature death, especially from heart disease or cancer. And the actual practice of strength training provides enhanced physical and cognitive function while also providing protection from a number of diseases and disease markers.

At The Perfect Workout, optimal strength training requires only two 20-minute workouts per week. Knowing that strength training requires such little time and can give you so many benefits, it’s an understatement to say that it’s time well spent.

By Matt Hedman, President of The Perfect Workout


1. Ruiz, J. R., Sui, X., Lobelo, F., Morrow Jr, J. R., Jackson, A. W., Sjöström, M., & Blair, S. N. (2008). Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: prospective cohort study. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 337(7661), 92.

2. Hurley, B. F., Hanson, E. D., & Sheaff, A. K. (2011). Strength training as a countermeasure to aging muscle and chronic disease. Sports Medicine, 41(4), 289-306.

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Meet Christina Marie Freiheit – Personal Trainer at The Perfect Workout’s Sunnyvale Studio


Instead of focusing on the scale and losing weight, Christina Marie is all about helping her clients lose inches. “(A client) losing two pants sizes and their body transforming itself – that’s a success to me,” she says.

When you meet Christina Marie for the first time, you probably wouldn’t guess that she used to be a lot heavier, she’s stronger than she looks, and she’s older than she looks (don’t tell anyone that last one). All three are reasons why she is a standout trainer at The Perfect Workout. The story begins in Washington state a little over a decade ago. Christina Marie always had a passion for fitness, and needed to lose some weight. She got involved in competitive body building, lost 42 pounds (and kept it off), and ended up getting fully immersed in that world. Eventually she trained other body builders as well, something she got a lot of satisfaction from.

Once she discovered slow-motion strength training, however, she quickly became a believer as she saw her own personal results and that of her clients. “I saw results come quicker without doing five sets of each exercise. I realized that you could do two workouts per week and keep in shape,” she says. “Slow-motion strength training is a challenge to mentally push yourself. You’re using just the muscle, not momentum. You still get a good core workout with the machines, but it’s safe. You’re not worried about dropping weights on your head, and you can push yourself completely.” The proof?

Christina Marie can now leg press the entire stack of 487 pounds! Not bad for someone who stands just over five feet tall (5′ ¾” to be exact) and weighs less than 100 pounds. Her clients are also seeing great results. Her unique approach as a trainer is to be an accountability partner, encourager, coach, and confidante all rolled into one. She understands life and the personal battles people go through, having been there herself with weight issues in the past.

Her clients say she is “really nice at being really mean,” in other words, she pushes them beyond their own limits in an uplifting way. “I feel like every client is my friend. They disclose things and I keep it confidential.”

Christina Marie is just as amazing outside the gym, too. She’s the Team Mom for her daughter’s club volleyball team, volunteers as a stage manager at her church, and was recently asked to be a strength training mentor for her daughter’s high school. She’s thrilled that she found The Perfect Workout, and absolutely loves it.

“It’s so surreal to be doing what I’m doing. I get to work with amazing people – co-workers and clients. I care about my clients so much and I want to make Sunnyvale a great studio.” With Christina Marie as a trainer and leader, no doubt that will happen.

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Bill says strength training reversed his aging!

If you challenge Bill Mueller to do something, chances are he’ll take you up on it and stick with it. Fifteen years ago, a friend challenged him to come to Soo Bahk Do, a Korean Martial Art. He’s been doing it twice a week consistently ever since and has reached the third degree black belt level. A year ago Bill found out about slow-motion strength training the same way, from his wife’s friend who was already a client at The Perfect Workout. “I was totally skeptical,” he says. “I had heard about either using big weights to build mass or light weights for definition,” says Bill. “I had never heard of slow-motion strength training, though.” Curious, he tried a free introductory workout at the Mission Valley studio, started feeling better right away, and signed up.

A few years back Bill did weight training and swam at the YMCA. At age 64, he was fit and trim at 145 pounds, but says he didn’t have a lot of muscle mass, and never had a personal trainer before. He was also looking to strengthen his bones since he has a bit of osteopenia, a condition where bone density levels are lower than normal. His hard work with Anna, his trainer, has paid off nicely. In the same way he’s committed to his martial arts, he’s committed to his Monday and Friday strength training workouts, which goes a long way toward getting good results.

Bill’s general sense of well-being has improved, he’s gotten a lot firmer and actually gained weight, and says, “I feel so much more fit now. That’s all the benefit I need.” He went from 145 pounds with little muscle, to 155 pounds with more muscles and strength. If you think it’s because Bill is super-disciplined and a fitness fanatic, think again. Like most of us, he says, “I get lazy easily. On my own, there’s no way I’d squeeze out all the reps that Anna does. She’s pretty low-key but very positive with encouragement. She keeps good track of everything and lets me know I’m making progress as I’m going along. There’s no way in the world that I would ever work this hard without her encouragement and guidance. No one is going to work themselves to total exhaustion by themselves.”

That’s the key to slow-motion strength training – getting to the point of complete muscle exhaustion. It’s a rare person who can achieve that by themselves working out at a regular gym, which is one of the reasons Bill didn’t get these kind of results before. Even more than the physical part, Bill claims that the mental part of The Perfect Workout is the toughest. “The ability to focus is hard as you get tired. Left to my own devices, I’d probably quit three or four reps sooner than I do.”

An administrative law judge, the 20-minute twice-a-week workouts fit into Bill’s schedule well, and he has no plans to stop. “You feel better overall. Just because I’m getting older doesn’t mean I have to decline physically. If I could stay where I’m at as I get older I’d be delighted.”

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