Understanding the Beauty of Strength Training in Women
Regular physical exercise has been known to be associated with body weight loss, reductions in diabetic, cardiovascular and all-cause mortality which leads to an increase in life expectancy. (1,2)
How is this so?
The shear stress-mediated mechanotransduction transform mechanical forces into molecular changes, which in turn modifies endothelial function and blood pressure. Our metabolism, inflammatory phenotype and endothelial cell morphology is directly affected by the chronic mechanical forces (in other words, physical training) through gene, protein expression and signal transduction. (3) The different types of physical training can induce different responses in metabolic characteristics. (4) Therefore, the variety of training is essential to induce different shear stress patterns that affect endothelial function in blood vessels. (5)
But, what kind of physical training are we looking at?
The combination of strength and endurance training has shown to be more effective than aerobic endurance training alone in reducing visceral fat, total body fat percentage, and total body fat-free mass (6) while maintaining/increasing muscle mass.(7) In studies done for treatment/prevention of obesity and type 2 diabetes, the combination of strength and endurance training has proved to be the most effective. (4)
It is widely known that aerobic endurance training alone has numerous health benefits - weight management (8), glucose control (4), endothelial function (5), lipoprotein particle size (9), concentration of high-density lipoproteins (10) , glomerular filtration rate (11) and of course an overall improvement in quality of life. (12)
However, it is not widely understood that strength training in women has its fair share of health benefits that is a necessity in enhancing functional health, especially later in life. Strength training not only prevents age-related loss of bone and muscle mass (13) but it is also vital for the development and maintenance of metabolically active lean muscle mass, which is needed for enhancing glucose metabolism. (14)
Many studies have shown how strength training has improved health in different aspects:
A short-term randomised trial showed results in weight reduction and improved biomarkers of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk (including blood lipids) (15,16)
A recent study done showed that older adults doing guided strength training (ie, ≥2 d/wk) had 46% lower odds of all-cause mortality than those who did not. (17)
A study done in amongst cancer survivors showed 33% lower risk of mortality in those who performed weight training at least once a week compared to those did not. (18)
There are many beneficial effects on mortality risk among women with a moderate amount of strength training and they include:
Reduction in body fat (19,20)
Improved physical functioning (21,22,23)
Increased in muscle mass (21,22,23)
Increased in muscle strength (21,22,23)
Improved glucose metabolism (24)
Improved other cardiovascular disease (eg. blood lipids) (15,16)
How much strength training should we be doing?
Strength training of ≥2 days a week in addition to aerobic activity is recommended for health benefits. (25,26) The European Society of Cardiology and European Society of Hypertension recommended in their 2013 guidelines for dynamic resistance training (not isometric training) performed 2-3 days a week as a means to improve metabolic parameters and reduce blood pressure. (27)
Though, I do have to highlight that it has been recently suggested that physical activity plans should be designed differently for each gender (28). *Plot twist!!*
Stay tune for our next article on how women should and can train differently according to our physiology!
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2. Swift DL, Lavie CJ, Johannsen NM, Arena R, Earnest CP, O'Keefe JH, Milani RV, Blair SN, Church TS. Physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and exercise training in primary and secondary coronary prevention. Circ J. 2013;77:281–292.
3. Gielen S., Schuler G., Adams V. Cardiovascular effects of exercise training: Molecular mechanisms. Circulation. 2010;122:1221–1238. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.939959.
4. Schwingshackl L., Missbach B., Dias S., König J., Hoffmann G. Impact of different training modalities on glycaemic control and blood lipids in patients with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Diabetologia. 2014;57:1789–1797. doi: 10.1007/s00125-014-3303-z.
5. Green D.J., Spence A., Halliwill J.R., Cable N.T., Thijssen D.H. Exercise and vascular adaptation in asymptomatic humans. Exp. Physiol. 2011;96:57–70. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.2009.048694.
6. Willis LH, Slentz CA, Bateman LA, Shields AT, Piner LW, Bales CW, Houmard JA, Kraus WE. Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. J Appl Physiol. 2012;113:1831–1837.
7. Park S.K., Park J.H., Kwon Y.C., Kim H.S., Yoon M.S., Park H.T. The effect of combined aerobic and resistance exercise training on abdominal fat in obese middle-aged women. J. Physiol. Anthr. Appl. Hum. Sci. 2003;22:129–135. doi: 10.2114/jpa.22.129.
8. Donnelly JE, Blair SN, Jakicic JM, Manore MM, Rankin JW, Smith BK. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41:459–471.
9. Kraus WE, Houmard JA, Duscha BD, Knetzger KJ, Wharton MB, McCartney JS, Bales CW, Henes S, Samsa GP, Otvos JD, Kulkarni KR, Slentz CA. Effects of the amount and intensity of exercise on plasma lipoproteins. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:1483–1492.
10. Kodama S, Tanaka S, Saito K, Shu M, Sone Y, Onitake F, Suzuki E, Shimano H, Yamamoto S, Kondo K, Ohashi Y, Yamada N, Sone H. Effect of aerobic exercise training on serum levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol: a meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:999–1008.
11. Johannsen NM, Swift DL, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Blair SN, Church TS. Categorical analysis of the impact of aerobic and resistance exercise training, alone and in combination, on cardiorespiratory fitness levels in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: results from the HART-D study. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:3305–3312.
12. Myers VH, McVay MA, Brashear MM, Johannsen NM, Swift DL, Kramer K, Harris MN, Johnson WD, Earnest CP, Church TS. Exercise training and quality of life in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:1884–1890.
13. Nelson ME, Rejeski WJ, Blair SN, Duncan PW, Judge JO, King AC, Macera CA, Castaneda‐Sceppa C. Physical activity and public health in older adults: recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007;116:1094–1105.
14. Ivy JL, Zderic TW, Fogt DL. Prevention and treatment of non‐insulin‐dependent diabetes mellitus. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 1999;27:1–35.
15. Umpierre D, Ribeiro PA, Schaan BD, Ribeiro JP. Volume of supervised exercise training impacts glycaemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review with meta‐regression analysis. Diabetologia. 2013;56:242–251.
16. Yang Z, Scott CA, Mao C, Tang J, Farmer AJ. Resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise for type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Sports Med. 2014;44:487–499.
17. Kraschnewski JL, Sciamanna CN, Poger JM, Rovniak LS, Lehman EB, Cooper AB, Ballentine NH, Ciccolo JT. Is strength training associated with mortality benefits? A 15 year cohort study of US older adults. Prev Med. 2016;87:121–127.
18. Hardee JP, Porter RR, Sui X, Archer E, Lee IM, Lavie CJ, Blair SN. The effect of resistance exercise on all‐cause mortality in cancer survivors. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014;89:1108–1115.
19. Donnelly JE, Blair SN, Jakicic JM, Manore MM, Rankin JW, Smith BK. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41:459–471.
20. Winett RA, Carpinelli RN. Potential health-related benefits of resistance training. Prev Med. 2001;33:503–513.
21. Nelson ME, Rejeski WJ, Blair SN, Duncan PW, Judge JO, King AC, Macera CA, Castaneda‐Sceppa C. Physical activity and public health in older adults: recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007;116:1094–1105.
22. Leong DP, Teo KK, Rangarajan S, Lopez‐Jaramillo P, Avezum A Jr, Orlandini A, Seron P, Ahmed SH, Rosengren A, Kelishadi R, Rahman O, Swaminathan S, Iqbal R, Gupta R, Lear SA, Oguz A, Yusoff K, Zatonska K, Chifamba J, Igumbor E, Mohan V, Anjana RM, Gu H, Li W, Yusuf S; Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study Investigators . Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. Lancet. 2015;386:266–273.
23. Ruiz JR, Sui X, Lobelo F, Morrow JR Jr, Jackson AW, Sjostrom M, Blair SN. Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2008;337:a439.
24. Ivy JL, Zderic TW, Fogt DL. Prevention and treatment of non‐insulin‐dependent diabetes mellitus. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 1999;27:1–35.
25. World Health Organization (WHO) . Global recommendations on physical activity for health. 2010. Available at: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/9789241599979/en/index.html. Accessed January 5, 2017.
26. US Department of Health and Human Services . 2008 Physical activity guidelines for Americans. 2008. Available at: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed January 5, 2017.
27. Mancia G, Fagard R, Narkiewicz K, Redón J, Zanchetti A, Böhm M, Christiaens T, Cifkova R, De Backer G, Dominiczak A, Galderisi M, Grobbee DE, Jaarsma T, Kirchhof P, Kjeldsen SE, Laurent S, Manolis AJ, Nilsson PM, Ruilope LM, Schmieder RE, Sirnes PA, Sleight P, Viigimaa M, Waeber B, Zannad F, Task Force Members 2013 ESH/ESC guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension. The Task Force for the Management of Arterial Hypertension of the European Society of Hypertension (ESH) and of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) J Hypertens. 2013;31:1281–1357.
28. Sanal E, Ardic F, Kirac S. Effects of aerobic or combined aerobic resistance exercise on body composition in overweight and obese adults: gender differences. A randomized intervention study. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2013;49:1–11.