How Resistance Training Combats Chronic Illness

A breakdown of how regular strength training can help prevent and/or manage symptoms of common chronic illnesses.
June 20, 2024
How Resistance Training Combats Chronic Illness



June 20, 2024

Resistance training, also known as strength or weight training, combats chronic illnesses through various physiological and metabolic mechanisms. Here’s how it can help manage and prevent several chronic conditions:

1. Type 2 Diabetes

  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity: Resistance training enhances the body's sensitivity to insulin, allowing for better glucose uptake by muscles, which helps control blood sugar levels.
  • Increases Muscle Mass: More muscle mass leads to higher basal metabolic rates, contributing to better glucose metabolism and reduced blood sugar levels.

2. Cardiovascular Disease

  • Lowers Blood Pressure: Regular resistance training can reduce resting blood pressure, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
  • Improves Lipid Profile: It can increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.
  • Enhances Heart Health: Strengthens the heart muscle, improving overall cardiovascular function and reducing the risk of heart disease.

3. Obesity

  • Increases Metabolic Rate: Building muscle through resistance training increases the resting metabolic rate, leading to higher calorie expenditure even at rest.
  • Reduces Body Fat: Combined with proper nutrition, resistance training can effectively reduce body fat percentage.

4. Osteoporosis

  • Increases Bone Density: Weight-bearing exercises stimulate bone formation and increase bone mineral density, reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
  • Improves Balance and Coordination: Strengthening muscles around the bones improves balance, reducing the risk of falls and related injuries.

5. Arthritis

  • Strengthens Surrounding Muscles: By strengthening the muscles around joints, resistance training can reduce the strain on these joints, alleviating symptoms of arthritis.
  • Improves Joint Function: Regular resistance training helps maintain and improve joint flexibility and function.

6. Depression and Anxiety

  • Boosts Mood: Physical activity, including resistance training, releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Enhances Self-Esteem: Achieving fitness goals through resistance training can improve self-esteem and body image.

7. Chronic Pain

  • Reduces Pain Sensitivity: Resistance training can alter pain perception and reduce chronic pain levels, potentially by increasing pain threshold and tolerance.
  • Improves Functionality: Strengthening muscles can reduce the strain on affected areas, improving overall functionality and reducing pain.

8. Cancer

  • Mitigates Side Effects: Resistance training can help mitigate the side effects of cancer treatments, such as fatigue, muscle wasting, and reduced quality of life.
  • Improves Prognosis: Regular physical activity, including resistance training, is associated with better outcomes and lower recurrence rates for some types of cancer.

Mechanisms of Action

  • Hormonal Changes: Resistance training induces beneficial hormonal changes, such as increased production of growth hormone and testosterone, which support muscle and bone health.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: Exercise has anti-inflammatory effects, which can help combat the chronic inflammation associated with many chronic diseases.
  • Enhanced Mitochondrial Function: Improved muscle function and increased mitochondrial density and efficiency enhance overall energy metabolism and physical performance.

By addressing these various factors, resistance training can be a powerful tool in both the prevention and management of chronic illnesses, leading to improved quality of life and better health outcomes.

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