We all know strength training is important for more than just looking good. After all, lean muscle mass keeps your bones strong, increases mobility, and according to a new study, may lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a new paper claims that people with moderate amounts of muscle strength reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes by 32 percent. Researchers say the benefits were independent of other types of fitness ability, like cardiorespiratory fitness, and lifestyle factors such as smoking. What’s more, you don’t have to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger to reap the benefit since more muscle strength wasn’t linked to better protection.
The research included more than 4,000 adults who didn’t have diabetes at the beginning of the study in 1981. Everyone participated in muscular strength tests, which included testing for their bench press and seated leg press one-rep max. Each person was then given a strength score that determined whether they had low, moderate or high levels of muscular strength. The team followed up with participants about eight years later to determine who had developed type 2 diabetes.
Of course, you probably want to know how much muscle is needed to ward off diabetes. Unfortunately, researchers say they can’t give an answer just yet.
“Naturally, people will want to know how often to lift weights or how much muscle mass they need, but it’s not that simple,” said DC Lee, associate professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, in a statement. “As researchers, we have several ways to measure muscle strength, such as grip strength or bench press. More work is needed to determine the proper dose of resistance exercise, which may vary for different health outcomes and populations.”
Mark Peterson, Ph.D, and associate professor in physical medicine & rehabilitation at Michigan State University agrees says their findings are solid. However, he says there are limitations to the study. Since researchers developed a strength score there’s little transparency about what it means to be moderately muscular. Plus, he believes the team minimizes the benefits of being, well, jacked.
“It appears that having high strength isn’t protective and that is not true,” he says. But he agrees that even having a moderate amount of muscle goes a long way.
Still, the team believe this is a good indication that strength training can improve health, which is particularly important because only 20 percent of Americans do some sort of muscle-strengthening activity twice a week. This is the the recommended minimum by the American Heart Association.
By Melissa Matthews