In the News: Muscle, not just for moving, and not just for men.

Woman weight training

Weight training is for women, maybe more so.

A study published yesterday has demonstrated the connection between muscle and health. Following almost 100,000 women over 8 years showed that engaging in weight training and other muscle conditioning exercises – think yoga and the like – was associated with a much lower risk of developing diabetes. This is good news, pointing the way to possible a preventative measure for one of the fastest growing diseases on earth.

It is also not news for anyone in the health industry. 

Forward thinking doctors, trainers and coaches have long known about this ability, and of course I’ll always try and get a person with type I or II diabetes to consider some form of regular resistance exercise because of it’s ability to help with blood sugar control. In the words of once such Doc:

It’s amazing but I could literally fix 80-90% of the patients that come into my office with a gym. Diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, dyslipidemia etc. Add an awesome personal trainer and BOOM! - Spencer Nadolsky

Now, I say demonstrated … this was a ‘prospective’ study, so not properly controlled enough to make it evidence, but it is in line with research on the subject as evidenced HERE and HERE and is a lovely demonstration of the effect scaled up, and in the real world.

So, is it the training, or something else?

The thing about these studies, as you will know if you’ve read my book, is that they often can’t or don’t  control for other factors that might give the same results.For example you’ll notice the more concerned individuals are about training in the gym, then the more likely they are to be concerned about diet also. This study seems to have done a good job here, so what makes looking after the muscle so important?

The thing is that muscle is one of the large reservoirs or blood sugar. Having good quantities of physiologically healthy muscle tissue means that you have a ‘sink’ or ‘sump’ for the carbohydrate that you ingest. Another factor is that for a while after training your muscle tissue increases the rate at which it is able to suck sugar out of the blood.

This is very good news as raised sugar in the blood sticks to things like proteins, effectively ‘cooking’ your tissues (the browning when you cook meat is sugar bonding to proteins). It also means the liver has to work hard to such that sugar out of the blood and then convert it to fat, and there’s all sorts of problematic spin-off’s from this process for the liver and the whole body.

So, weight training is good. Because also weight training is a form of interval training and also helps kick the metabolism up a notch it’s one of the best ways of losing fat.Importantly because women tend to carry less naturally they need to work on this aspect a little more, and of course with the knock on effects of weight training you’ll see the results that most women are after.

The Bottom Line

  • Weight training improves the working of muscle and it’s ability to such nutrients out of the blood
  • The muscle is one of the largest reservoirs of sugar
  • Better working muscle means less sugar in the blood
  • More normal sugar levels in the blood – and for most that means lower – means less chance of diabetes, but also the connected metabolic disorders like high blood pressure, dislipidemia and so on.

Three ways to condition muscle

1) Use a Full Body Weights Circuit

Bodyweight and free weights circuit twice a week:

  • Walking lunges, x12 each leg
  • Dumbbell shoulder press (standing), x6
  • Bodyweight or goblet squats, x12
  • Dumbbell bent over one arm rows, x10 each side
  • Dumbbell swings, x14
  • Dumbbell bench press, plank 30 seconds

Stop only where you have to. This will be about 1 hours work per week. For variations for all these go HERE

2) Ditch the Steady State Cardio

Steady state is OK but interval training is a combination of short higher paced intervals with slower, recovery intervals – think ‘sprint, walk, sprint, walk’, and you get the idea, and because you’re able to work at much higher intensities the sugar usage is increase which in turn makes the muscle more able to absorb it.

Running outside? Alternating run hard then jog lightly between lamp posts, r maybe try 400m fast paced runs with a few minutes in brtween
Running or cycling in the gym? Alternate 30 second sprints and 30 seconds easy pace
Rowing? Try 4 times 400m sprints separated by 2 minutes complete rest.

These sessions are hard and short (10-15 minutes) so the sprint pace should be tough but keep it safe. A ‘sprint’ is different for each person.

3) Get supple and conditioned

Yoga and pilates are seen as easy options but they’re far from it, striking poses and holding them, or working in new and unusual ways  can be tough. I sometimes give these to my athletes and bodybuilders as another from of conditioning session, the results are often quite amazing as they help improve the quality of the rest of their training. And yes gent, that includes the male ones.

The simplest and most effective way is join a class in your gym, community or adult education centre, here you will hopefully be screened for suitability and also get your form checked, but there are resources available on line like these HERE, and HERE then all you have to do is spend the £10 on a yoga mat.

Links and Further reading

BBC News Health: Pump it up! Weightlifting ‘cuts diabetes risk in women’

Full Journal Article PLOS Medicine: Muscle-Strengthening and Conditioning Activities and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts of US Women

Exercise for health database of diabetes studies:

deadlift lady… deadlifts the king (or queen) of weight training movements




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