Good Things Come to Those Who Weight Train
Biceps curls and leg presses do more than pump up your physique. By building muscle, strength training helps you stay strong and get around better. But that’s not all. A medical study (Arthritis Care and Research, October 15, 2006) suggests that lower-body strengthening exercises may slow the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee.
The study by researchers at Indiana University included 221 older adults, some of whom had knee pain and/or X-ray evidence of knee osteoarthritis. These older adults were randomly assigned to do either strength training or flexibility exercise. They began by working out at a gym twice a week and at home once a week. Over the course of a year, the gym sessions were gradually phased out until all workouts were done at home. For those in the strength-training group, that meant transitioning from weight machines at the gym to home exercises with elastic bands.
Strength was measured and knee X-rays were taken at the beginning of the study and 30 months later. The strength-training group retained more strength during this period than the flexibility exercise group did. That’s no surprise. Perhaps more interestingly, among those who had osteoarthritis when the study started, the progression of joint space narrowing — a sign that their arthritis was getting worse — also occurred less often in the group who strength trained.
Strength training 101
Strengthening exercises use weights or resistance to make your muscles work harder, which helps them grow stronger. The latest expert guidelines recommend strength training two or three times a week. To give your muscles a chance to recover, rest at least one day between workouts.
You can do strength training using weight machines, free weights or stretchy bands, cords or tubes that offer resistance when you pull on them. In addition, some classic strengthening exercises — such as push-ups, pull-ups and crunches — use the weight of your own body to work your muscles. Ask your doctor which forms of strength training are best for you and whether there are any specific moves you should avoid. Also, consider working with a personal trainer for at least a few sessions to make sure your exercise form is correct.
The bottom line
Strength training has many proven health benefits. Strong muscles absorb shocks and reduce the strain on joints, which helps protect your joints from injury. In addition, strength training helps build strong bones as well as improve physical functioning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strengthening exercises can be safe and effective for people of all ages with many types of health challenges. In fact, people with health concerns such as arthritis often have the most to gain from getting stronger.
PLEASE NOTE: The studies and their findings that are presented in this article are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of the advice of your doctor. By providing you with this information, Genzyme Corporation is not endorsing its content. You should consult with your doctor before starting any new health regimen.
"Types of Exercise.” Arthritis Foundation. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org/conditions/exercise/three_you_need.asp. Accessed September 6, 2011.
"Effects of Strength Training on the Incidence and Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis.” A.E. Mikesky et al. Arthritis Care and Research. October 15, 2006, vol. 55, no. 5, pp. 690-699.
"Weight Training Does Not Increase Strength But May Slow Progression in OA Patients.” John Wiley & Sons (news release), September 29, 2006.
"Growing stronger: strength training for older adults — frequently asked questions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/faq/index.html. Accessed September 6, 2011.
"Strength training: getting stronger, leaner and healthier.” Mayo Clinic. Available at: >http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710. Accessed September 6, 2011.
"Growing stronger: Strength training for older adults — why strength train?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/why/index.html. Accessed September 6, 2011.
"Physical activity and weight control.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/physical.htm. Accessed September 6, 2011.