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How Strength Training Can Help Combat Metabolic Syndrome

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How Strength Training Can Help Combat Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is the name used to define a group of risk factors that puts one at an elevated risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and premature death. Metabolic syndrome becomes more common with age, and anyone experiencing at least three of five specific risk factors may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors:

  • Having a large waistline or an “apple” shape, or carrying most of your excess weight in your abdominal area as opposed to the hips and other parts of the body.
  • Having a high triglyceride level or being on medication to treat high triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat stored in the blood.
  • Having a low HDL cholesterol level increases risk of heart disease. HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove cholesterol from the arteries.
  • Having high blood pressure or being on medication to treat high blood pressure.
  • Having high blood sugar or being on medication for high blood sugar. Elevated blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

Strength training can improve risk factors for metabolic syndrome and decrease risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and premature death, Cooper Clinic Preventive Medicine Physician Dr. Michael Clark explains.

You don’t have to be a body builder to reduce your risk. “A simple, well-designed, well-balanced program can be done 30 minutes twice a week and can include lifting weights, body weight exercises or a combination of both,” said Dr. Clark.

After the age of 40, we lose eight to 10 percent of muscle mass every decade (and generally gain fat as well). Fat cells bind insulin making it less available for the body to use and less effective, which results in glucose intolerance, elevated insulin levels, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood). Associated with the lack of muscle mass is decreased insulin sensitivity, increased adipose (fatty) tissue and decreased bone density.

“A lot of people want to attribute these changes to hormonal imbalance and other problems, but the real issue is a ‘use it or lose it’ phenomenon,” said Dr. Clark. “If you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose muscle mass.”

In a number of studies, resistance training, either alone or in combination with aerobic training, has shown to improve insulin sensitivity and, therefore, glucose tolerance. However, only 10 percent of the U.S. population meets the minimum recommendations for strength training—performing strength training exercises twice a week including all major muscle groups (back, chest, legs, arms and core).

If you are unfamiliar with strength training or if it has been a while since you’ve lifted weights, Dr. Clark recommends working with a Professional Fitness Trainer who can help you get the most out of your time in the gym by designing a strength training workout personalized to your body and specific needs. Also, visit the Exercise Moves section for strength training videos with exercise demonstrations and tips.

Having a regular, comprehensive physical exam—one of Dr. Cooper’s “Eight Steps to Get Cooperized”—is also a preventive measure you can take to reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome. Learn about Cooper Clinic’s comprehensive physical exam at

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.