The Relationship Between Strength And Your Health
Learn how strength training impacts your health- the positive influence on long-term diseases, conditions like diabetes and arthritis…
We’re betting you probably want to avoid disease so that you are able to perform all the hobbies and activities that you wish to do.
In fact, you probably want to be able to do so for your entire life, right?
There's a physical quality that underlies your ability to continue doing what you enjoy for the rest of your life — muscle strength!
In this article we discuss the direct relationship between strength and health, including the positive influence of strength on long-term disease risk, including conditions like diabetes and arthritis, and even the risk of early death. Let’s dive in…
Muscle Strength Reduces Risk of Early Death
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. 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.
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.
What were the results? 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.
Muscle Strength Improves Disease Markers
A research review from the University of Maryland 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 connections but not causes).
After condensing the results of the studies, the researchers found that performing strength training has a “moderate to large” impact on the following outcomes:
- Managing disease markers (such as triglycerides, blood sugar, etc.)
- Minimizing the risk of heart disease
- Maximizing the ability to complete daily activities and overall physical function
- Avoiding 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.
Is Strength Training The Magic Pill?
We can safely say that having more muscle strength is a strong indicator to living a longer, healthier life. In addition, having more muscular strength has been shown to directly improve a variety of specific health conditions such as arthritis, joint injuries, sarcopenia, diabetes, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases.
So if you are dealing with or are concerned about any of the following, keep reading…
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Those who have arthritis commonly experience symptoms such as pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and swelling. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
When working around Arthritis, it's ideal to incorporate low impact exercise that doesn't require jarring movements (like running or jumping), but is potent enough to stimulate a response to the muscle.
Research shows that improving strength of the muscles around the arthritic joint (e.g. knee) is especially important for maintaining normal bone alignment, which is critical to preventing future disability.
Slow-motion strength training focuses on safely building muscle through high intensity, low impact weight training (and provides excellent cardiovascular benefit!)
Sarcopenia: Combating Age-Related Muscle Loss
Sarcopenia (muscle loss) is a common reason folks seek out strength training. It’s the loss of muscle and strength that naturally occurs with age.
Specifically, muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60.
Slow-Motion Strength Training, such as what we do at The Perfect Workout, is a low impact style of weight training that safely builds muscle mass and strength. It reverses the age-related impacts of sarcopenia.
Strength training is an important part of managing diabetes. Regular strength training helps manage blood glucose levels and promotes insulin sensitivity. Adding muscle is also helpful.
Muscle is the biggest storage space for glucose in the body. When people gain muscle, they can store more glucose in their muscles and keep excess glucose out of the bloodstream!
Building lean muscle is a phenomenal way to help with insulin health and lowering blood sugar levels.
A number of studies have shown that strength training can help with osteoporosis.
Bone mineral density is a complex picture that's impacted by hormones, nutrition, lifestyle, and environmental factors – some of which can be out of our control.
However, one avenue we do have more control over is addressing bone mineral density through strength training. Strength training safely builds bone density by increasing calcium deposits in the bones.
Consistent strength training is known to help with conditions like multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, lupus, and many other autoimmune diseases!
Hypothyroidism, for example, presents many folks with challenging weight loss circumstances. Slow-motion strength training can help. Lean muscle is one of the most direct routes (via exercise) to address weight loss by boosting your overall metabolism. This allows your body to naturally burn fat, more effectively.
For MS sufferers, strength training might stop MS progression. Studies show those who strength trained for six months experienced a lack of lesion growth during that time. The researchers also observed that strength training might even help the brain tissue regrow!
The research continues to show an endless number of benefits that come from increasing muscle strength. Having stronger muscles reduces the risk of long-term diseases and early death, as well as improves and/or prevents common health conditions including arthritis, sarcopenia, diabetes, osteoporosis and autoimmune disease.
While there’s no such thing as a magic pill to improve health… muscle strength is pretty darn close.
We know strength training is important, but nutrition is also a huge piece of your wellbeing. If you'd like help learning how to implement new habits alongside your workouts, schedule a Nutrition Intro session today! Email [email protected] to get started.
- Baker, K. R., Nelson, M. E., Felson, D. T., Layne, J. E., Sarno, R., & Roubenoff, R. (2001). The efficacy of home based progressive strength training in older adults with knee osteoarthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Rheumatology, 28, 1655-166.
- 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.
- 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.
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