Weight Training: A Building Block in General Health

Healthnotes Newswire (May 7, 2009)—A new study confirms the known physical and physiological benefits of regular weight training, though several protein powders tested in conjunction with the exercise did not appear to increase these results. The only notable protein powder benefit in this study was an improvement in a heart health marker in the group that took soy protein.

Bulking up through weight training

The study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, included 28 sedentary, overweight men with high cholesterol levels. At the beginning of the study, they were enrolled in a three-day-a-week weight-training program designed to include muscle groups in the upper arms, chest, back, legs, shoulders, and abdomen. The numbers of repetitions and sets at each workout were gradually increased over the course of the 12-week program. In addition, the men were assigned to take either a soy protein drink (providing 25.8 grams of protein per day), a whey protein drink (providing 26.6 grams of protein per day), or a placebo carbohydrate drink.

All of the men had dramatic increases in muscle strength: the average increase in overall strength was 47%. They also experienced reductions in body fat and waist-to-hip ratios, and increases in lean muscle mass. These changes were the same in the soy protein, whey protein, and placebo groups. Total cholesterol levels dropped in all groups; however, the men in the soy protein group had slightly more improvement in ratios of total to HDL-cholesterol levels and LDL- to HDL-cholesterol levels, which are indicators of cardiac risk.

Stronger is healthier

A popular form of exercise, people often begin weight training to improve their physical appearance, but studies have found that by increasing lean body mass, reducing total body fat and abdominal fat, and lowering cholesterol levels, weight training may more importantly reduce cardiac risk and significantly improve long-term health. The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend weight training as part of an overall fitness program.

“These results provide further support for a structured resistance training program to improve strength and the cardiovascular risk profile of sedentary, overweight adult men desiring to improve their overall health,” the study authors said.

Fitness tips

The only way to get fit is through physical exercise, recreational or occupational. If you are thinking of starting a weight-training program, it is always wise to consult with a fitness specialist to design a program that will safely help you meet your goals. Here are some additional tips for achieving better fitness:

• Remember that aerobic exercise, like walking, jogging, swimming, and bicycling, is also important for cardiovascular fitness—30 to 60 minutes per day.

• Support your growing muscle mass with a healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, and lean cuts of meat and poultry.

• Include soy foods in your diet. A wealth of research shows that eating soy can help us maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce cardiac risk.

(J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2009;6:8)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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