Weight training helps to maintain good health, study finds

May 21, 2000

ATHENS, Ohio - People interested in maintaining good health should consider adding weight training to their exercise regimen, according to a new Ohio University study.

The research, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, counters other studies and news reports that have given weight lifting a bad name, said anatomist Robert Staron, lead researcher on the project.

Staron and his colleagues followed 32 healthy men and women age 19-26 who were not using weights regularly. During the eight-week weight, or resistance, training program, participants did three different exercises for the lower body twice a week. Researchers studied blood samples from participants taken during and after the study, paying close attention to lipoproteins, which transport water-insoluble fats in the blood and are involved in an individual's overall cholesterol count.

Although researchers noted no reduction in cholesterol in healthy young men and women, they also found no increase. But the participants did show other health benefits, including a significant decrease in body fat and increase in muscle strength, an interesting result given the short duration of the study.

"I think our research has shown, and other research supports this, that resistance training is not a bad thing," said Staron, an associate professor of anatomy in the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine. "It's becoming apparent that any activity is good, whether it's resistance training, endurance training or a combination of both. There are some benefits you can get from strength training that you can't get from endurance training and vice versa."

Some studies by scientists elsewhere had found that weight lifting increased cholesterol levels, while other studies found the exercise decreased cholesterol. The contradiction prompted Staron to launch this short-term, high intensity study. His findings suggest that young, healthy people experience no change in cholesterol levels as a result of weight training, but added that it's possible that any exercise, including resistance training, could improve lipoprotein levels in people with high cholesterol.

"Long term resistance training could have a positive impact on lipid profile," Staron said. "And when we consider all the favorable changes that did occur during the study, continued training may well have resulted in favorable changes in cholesterol."

This study differs from previous ones because the researchers examined the changes in muscle fiber composition and size, offering a broader view of the effects of strength training on all aspects of the muscle and body.

"We had an advantage over other studies because we did so much data collection," Staron said. "We conducted blood tests and biopsies, so we were actually able to look inside the muscle to see what changes occurred during the course of the training period."

This latest study is part of a larger project by Staron and his colleagues that is focused on how muscles respond to weight training. Last year, they published research that found that molecular changes in the muscle begin within two to four weeks of initiating resistance training, far earlier than previously thought. What's more, Staron found that muscles appear to respond to even limited weight training - he noted significant changes in the thigh muscles after just four workouts.

Staron, an avid weight lifter himself, now plans to study how training affects the muscle itself: a project on the differences between performing one set versus three sets of a strength training exercise and one that compares the effects of exercise on a home exercise machine to a free weights routine.
The study was funded by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Co-authors of the study are Thomas Murray, Frederick Hagerman and Robert Hikida, all of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Roger Gilders of the College of Health and Human Services and Kerry Ragg of Student Health Service.

Written by Anya Rao.

Attention reporters, editors: For a copy of the journal article on which this news release is based, call Andrea Gibson at (740) 597-2166 or Charlene Clifford at (740) 593-0946.

Ohio University

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