The results of the study, conducted by an international team of researchers led by scientists from Sweden's Karolinska Institute, found that muscular strength is as important as body weight and diet when it comes to protecting the body against cancer.
Scientists tracked the lifestyles of 8,677 volunteers, who were men ranging in age from 20 to 82, for an average of 18.9 years. Regular medical exams were conducted during regular, periodic visits to the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas, where participants received counselling on diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors associated with an increased risk of chronic disease. Tests of muscle strength were also included, and the researchers noted how many participants developed cancer and subsequently died from it.
Results showed that men who regularly practised weight training, thus having the highest muscle strength, were from 30 to 40 percent less likely to develop a deadly tumour, regardless of age, body mass index, whether they were slim or obese, and even after adjusting for levels of cardio-respiratory fitness. The study notes that, "Age, body mass index, blood pressure, and levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose were higher in decadents and in those with lower levels of muscular strength."
Researchers also noted the role weight training has in controlling weight gain, stating, "Exercise recommendations to prevent or treat obesity have focused mainly on aerobic activities, yet resistance exercise is an important complement for weight control, mainly as a result of the increases in metabolically active muscle mass. Under most circumstances, and especially during physical inactivity, resting energy expenditure is the largest component of total energy expenditure. The energy expenditure related to muscle metabolism is the only component of resting energy expenditure that might vary considerably."
As a complement to regular aerobic exercise, the researchers recommended regular resistance training two or three days a week, exercising muscle groups in both the upper and lower body. They go on to say "The recommendation for moderate to vigorous physical activity and resistance training are supported by the current research owing to the reduction in risk of death from all causes and cancer associated with increased cardio-respiratory fitness or muscular strength."
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