Millions of men suffer from the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health issues that raise the risk of heart problems, diabetes and stroke. One in three Americans suffer from this serious condition, with risk factors that include a large waistline, high levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat), low levels of high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol), high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Crash diets are not the answer— in fact, you should hit the gym. New research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals that one hour of resistance training per week, even without cardio, can cut your risk of the metabolic syndrome.
The Mayo Clinic study involved 7,418 middle-aged adults (average age 46) who were evaluated at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas between 1987 and 2006. While their exercise program was not supervised, subjects self-reported their compliance with Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The guidelines suggest that Americans, “Do muscle-strengthening activities (such as lifting weights or using resistance bands) that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week … and aerobic exercise in excess of 500 metabolic equivalent minutes per week).”
None of the participants in the Mayo Clinic study suffered from the metabolic syndrome when they enrolled. Fifteen percent (1,147) of the participants developed metabolic syndrome during their follow-up of four years. The study looked at mostly men; 19 percent of the subjects were female.
The researchers found that any amount of resistance training that met exercise guidelines was associated with a 17 percent lower risk of the metabolic syndrome— and up to an hour of weekly resistance exercise was associated with 29 percent lower risk of development of the metabolic syndrome, compared with no resistance exercise. Larger amounts of resistance exercise did not provide further benefits. People who met both recommended resistance and aerobic exercise guidelines had a 25 percent lower risk of development of the metabolic syndrome, compared with meeting neither guideline.
The researchers concluded: “Health professionals should recommend that patients perform resistance exercise along with aerobic exercise to reduce MetS ” (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, article in press).