Overcoming Metabolic Syndrome
South Asians are prone to a group of risk factors causing metabolic syndrome. Resistance training (or strength training) has been shown to offer protection.
South Asians are prone to Metabolic Syndrome, which is characterized by high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels, and high blood glucose levels. This condition raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. It is also closely related to a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, so there are ways to fight it.
According to the October 2017 Idea Fitness Journal, “Facilitated by the Cooper Institute in Dallas, the study included 7,418 subjects (average age 46 years; 81% men) and followed them for up to 19 years (median follow-up was 4 years). Participants completed comprehensive examinations... . They also self reported information on exercise participation. According to the data, 38% of respondents reported engaging in resistance exercise on a regular basis, averaging about 60-119 minutes of resistance training per week. ... After analyzing the data, the authors drew these primary conclusions:
- Meeting the physical activity guidelines for resistance exercise seemed to offer a protective effect against metabolic syndrome.
- Less than 1 hour per week of resistance training significantly reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome compared with no resistance exercise. More than 1 hour of resistance exercise did not provide additional benefits.
- Meeting both resistance and aerobic exercise guidelines proved most effective and was linked with a 25 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome compared with meeting neither guideline.
‘Clinicians should routinely recommend resistance exercise training for the prevention of metabolic syndrome and future cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk’, said the authors. ‘In addition, individuals with CVD risk factors should consider a more individualized, safe and effective exercise program under the direction of a qualified exercise professional.’ ” The study was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2017; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2017.02.018).
Why does resistance training help so much? Muscle is more metabolically active and aids in fat loss. More muscle mass leads to better insulin efficiency, thus lowering blood glucose levels. A fitter, stronger body can make aerobic exercise more intense and effective, thereby burning more calories and promoting further fat loss, which in turn helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and normalize blood pressure. Also keep in mind that as we age, we tend to lose muscle mass, and regular strength/resistance training prevents this loss.
What is resistance training like? These exercises are performed with dumbbells, heavy objects such as sandbags, cable machines, exercise bands, or the individual’s body weight so that muscles contract against an external force or resistance. The exercises are started at a basic level and gradually the intensity is increased as strength and fitness improves.
What is the best—easiest and safest—way for me to do resistance training? Beginning strength-training exercises can be intimidating: which exercises should I do, and how should I do them correctly? This is not like a cardiovascular exercise such as walking, which is easily done on one’s own. Group fitness classes that include strength training might be a good option for some people; however, for middle aged to older adults (those most likely to get metabolic syndrome) a safe, individualized program under the guidance of a fitness instructor is highly recommend. This way, any health issues the individual might have such as hypertension, diabetes, etc., can be taken into consideration, as these can influence exercise process and outcome.
Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404)-376-5655; firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.
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