Resistance or strength training may be just as effective as, or even superior to, aerobic training in terms of overall health promotion. Plus, it’s less time-consuming according to a 2010 review by Stuart Phillips and Richard Winett.
I don’t like to exercise but I want the health benefits. So I seek ways to get it done safely and quickly.
Here’s a quote from Phillips and Winett:
A central tenet of this review is that the dogmatic dichotomy of resistance training as being muscle and strength building with little or no value in promoting cardiometabolic health and aerobic training as endurance promoting and cardioprotective, respectively, largely is incorrect.
Over the last few years (decade?), a new exercise model has emerged. It’s simply intense resistance training for 15–20 minutes twice a week. It’s not fun, but you’re done and can move on to other things you enjoy. None of this “three to five hours a week” of exercise that some public health authorities recommend. We have no consensus on whether the new model is as healthy as the old.
More tidbits from Phillips and Winett:
- they hypothesize that resistance training (RT) leads to improved physical function, fewer falls, lower risk for disability, and potentially longer life span
- only 10–15% of middle-aged or older adults in the U.S. practice RT whereas 35% engage in aerobic training (AT) or physical activity to meet minimal guidelines
- they propose RT protocols that are brief, simple, and feasible
- twice weekly training may be all that’s necessary
- RT has a beneficial effect on LDL cholesterol and tends to increase HDL cholesterol, comparable to effects seen with AT
- blood pressure reductions with RT are comparable to those seen with AT (6 mmHg systolic, almost 5 mmHg diastolic)
- RT improves glucose regulation and insulin activity in those with diabetes and prediabetes
- effort is a key component of the RT stimulus: voluntary fatigue is the goal (referred to as “momentary muscular failure” in some of my other posts)
- “In intrinsic RT, the focus and goal are to target and fatigue muscle groups. A wide range of repetitions and time under tension can be used to achieve such a goal. Resistance simply is a vehicle to produce fatigue and only is adjusted when fatigue is not reached within the designated number of repetitions and time under tension.”
Our thesis is that an intrinsically oriented (i.e., guided by a high degree of effort intrinsic to each subject) program with at minimum of one set with 10–15 multiple muscle group exercises (e.g., leg press, chest press, pulldown, overhead press) executed with good form would be highly effective from a public health perspective.
The authors cite 60 other sources to support their position.
These ideas are the foundation of time-efficient resistance training of the sort promoted by Dr. Doug McGuff, Skyler Tanner, Fred Hahn, Chris Highcock, James Steele II, and Jonathan Bailor, to name a few.
Only a minority will ever exercise as much as the public health authorities recommend. This new training model has real potential to help the rest of us.
Steve Parker, M.D.
Reference: Phillips, Stuart and Winett, Richard. Uncomplicated resistance training and health-related outcomes: Evidence for a public health mandate. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 2010, vol. 9 (#4), pages 208-213.