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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: Maciej Szukała

Regular physical activity brings with it a lot of good for our he alth. Until recently, it was not known how much we really need to train to lower the risk of civilization diseases and be able to enjoy well-being. Research published in early March in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shed new light on this issue. Read what they show.

What was the starting point for the research?

According to the current WHO guidelines, adults should undertake the resistance effort at least twice a week at regular intervals. This frequency ensures the maintenance of muscle strength at a constant level and makes the body more effectively defend itself against the emergence and development of more and more common civilization diseases (NCD), such as cancer or diseases affecting the circulatory system. In developed countries, they are one of the main factors that shorten the length of human life.

Scientists from the Haruki Mommy team, under whose supervision the study was developed, indicate that an example of resistance training may be exercises in the gym performed with additional weights. However, it can be assumed that a similar function will be played by crossfit workouts, and even (probably to a lesser extent) exercises with resistance bands.

Until now, scientific research has focused much more on typically aerobic rather than anaerobic exercise (e.g. running, cycling), so no major correlation has been found between strength training and life expectancy.

Single research only showed:

  • general relationship between resistance exercise and mortality from lifestyle diseases,
  • relationship between resistance exercise and the incidence of kidney cancer.

In some countries, such as Japan, there is an ongoing debate as to whether resistance training should be included in general guidelines for physical activity at all.

Most guidelines focus on the effects of resistance training on strength, muscle mass, and other work-related parameterssystem, but does not address the relationship between gym training and overall he alth.

This gap is filled by the aforementioned research consisting in a review and development of the existing literature - i.e. a meta-analysis. By analyzing the sources, the researchers attempted to demonstrate the relationship between strength training and mortality due to NCD diseases. The study covered two different behavior models:

  • undertaking strength exercises without prior activity (including aerobic),
  • taking up strength exercises while doing aerobic activity.

The aim of the research was to collect data that could serve as a substantive foundation for further guidelines addressed to societies.

Research assumptions

The sources for the meta-analysis were taken from the Embase and MEDLINE databases. Only the studies were selected which show that:

  • participants are 18 years or older and no serious diseases or dysfunctions were detected,
  • have been run continuously for at least 2 years,
  • refer to the effects of implementing strength training in parallel with aerobic training and without it.

In total, 16 works and over 1,200 research results were analyzed. What resulted from them?

Strength exercises performed without aerobic training

Scientists have found that athletes who only do strength exercise have a 10 to 20 percent lower overall risk of death compared to those who are completely passive, as well as a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It is enough to perform 30 to 60 minutes of resistance exercise a week.

This type of activity helps to work on muscular endurance and strength by confronting it with external resistance, even if it is only the force of gravity and not heavy weights.

Strength exercises performed together with aerobic effort

In turn, supplementing 30-60 minutes of strength training a week with any number of cardio training reduces the risk of premature death by 40%, and also reduces the risk of cardiac events by 46%.

The risk of cancer in this combination of factors is reduced by 28%. Interestingly, this meta-analysis is the first study to also discuss the relationship between resistance training and the risk of diabetes.

According to team leader Haruki Momma, “Many previous studies have linked strength exercise to decreased NCD rates, so we expected a similar result. However, we wanted to integrate the existing research. "

Analysis of works with tot althe volume covered almost half a million participants aged 18-98, the vast majority of whom lived in the United States. Their involvement in physical exercise was measured in two ways:

  • based on the submitted statement,
  • based on the data entered into the form.

Assumptions about exercise have been widely judged to be robust and provide reliable results. Professor William Roberts in the department of family medicine and social he alth at the University of Minnesota, noted that 60 minutes of strength activity a week is actually 5 to 15 minutes of exercise a day. Each of us should be able to save this amount of time.

The doctor adds that these results are great news for people who are already active and even better for those who are just planning to start moving. By investing very small amounts of time, we can have a positive impact on our he alth. However, it is important to implement each activity gradually, without getting involved in a difficult and extensive training plan, the implementation of which may bring more harm than good.

It is recommended that you consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. He or she may order additional cardiological or orthopedic tests.

It should also be emphasized that starting your adventure with sports with plans for advanced athletes will never be a good idea and will soon lead to an injury or overtraining.

How does increasing strength affect he alth risks?

Representatives of the medical community point out the need for more research of this type. Dr. Nieca Goldberg, director at Atria New York City and academic lecturer, emphasizes that Haruka Mommy's research does not answer the question why strength training actually makes us suffer and die less from civilization diseases. He also points out that many people who are overweight and obese have an increased risk of:

  • heart disease,
  • insulin resistance,
  • selected neoplasms.

In their case, the implementation of activity will bring even better results than in the case of he althy people.

There is no doubt, however, that the implementation of an exercise program reduces the level of body fat, increases the amount of lean muscle mass and regulates cholesterol levels. All these factors translate into better well-being and he alth.

Moreover, in many cases, continuing physical activity entailsthe formation of many other he althy habits regarding the motivation to he althy eating, hydration or pro-he alth supplementation. Together, all these factors translate into better he alth, but it is not always possible to answer the question which one works best and whether it would be as effective if it were not for the other factors.

It is believed that the combination of two types of effort - strength and aerobic - is the most effective mix of activities that can positively affect he alth. Both types of stimuli complement each other and bring a much greater effect than either of them separately.

Many representatives of science indicate that strength-endurance training simulates the lifestyle of our ancestors as accurately as possible. It should not be forgotten that it is the hunting lifestyle, and therefore based on various activities, that shaped our genes and predispositions.

Researchers include among typical aerobic efforts:

  • walks,
  • dance,
  • running,
  • cycling,
  • swimming.

In turn, anaerobic exercises involve performing exercises with external loads, such as deadlifts, pressing the bar in sitting or standing, dumbbell lifts or rowing in the drop. All of these movement patterns mainly activate the shoulder and back muscles

. Squats, lunges and other lower body exercises will do just as well.

Anaerobic activity reduces the risk of diabetes?

The authors of the study suggest that the reduced risk of developing and developing diabetes in people training strength sports may be associated with higher levels of muscle mass.

It turns out that lifting weights helps lower blood sugar levels. Short and intense efforts activate mainly fast-twitch fibers, for which the most important fuel is glycogen, i.e. glucose pumped into the muscles.

While the accompanying insulin resistance can interfere with the natural cycle of energy production, working muscles can also use this sugar, which circulates in the blood as free glucose, as fuel.

Importantly, increasing lean body mass causes blood glucose levels to drop and the muscle response to the hormone insulin improves. But that's not all - the more muscle masses, the more glycogen they can store, so less free (and harmful) glucose circulates in the blood.

Scientific research also shows that more muscle means more energy and easier fat burning, which is e.g. responsible for the occurrencetype 2 diabetes, i.e. diabetes resulting from overweight and related inflammation.

Does more always mean better?

Although the general conclusion from the study leads to the conclusion that the majority of exercisers do not notice any further improvement in he alth with training lasting longer than 60 minutes, each case should be analyzed individually. Many exercisers have been found to benefit more from units lasting more than an hour. This may be due to :

  • training level,
  • by age and gender,
  • from individual conditions (hormonal balance, structure of the muscular system, proportions of muscle fibers).

The relationship between improved he alth and workouts lasting longer than 60 minutes is not clear, however.

Combined analyzes, consisting in combining the results of many other studies, allow to draw far-reaching general conclusions. However, in order to be able to provide specific answers, it is necessary to prepare further studies.

The current state of medical knowledge indicates the potential harmfulness of long-term and intense training for the hormonal economy. It turns out that many long-distance runners suffer from, for example, constantly elevated levels of cortisol. Although in small amounts it is necessary for functioning, its excess causes regeneration disorders, abdominal obesity, increased blood pressure or weakened immunity.

Cardio workouts seem to be more beneficial when done in the form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). In practice, this means that periods of intensive work are separated by rest or very low-intensity activity.

Is there a golden mean for our he alth?

For people looking for a simple solution that does not require the use of a personal trainer or complex exercise equipment, crossfit workouts can be provided.

Most often they combine strength and endurance elements, but at the same time they do not last long enough to have a negative impact on our hormonal economy.

Starting crossfit workouts is not complicated. At the outset, all you need is a pair of kettlebells, a plyometry box, a skipping rope, and a bar. In a small space, you will do a lot of exercises that will involve:

  • fast twitch muscle fibers,
  • slow twitch muscle fibers,
  • cardiovascular system,
  • respiratory system.

What is the conclusion of the discussed research? You don't have to train a few hours a week or follow a marathon running plan,to enjoy the beneficial effects of physical activity! In fact, 5 to 10 minutes of strength training a day and a half-hour walk most days a week is enough to drastically reduce the risk of civilization diseases.

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