The Benefits of Weight Training for Chronic Health Conditions

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If have a chronic disease, meaning a persistent or recurring longer-term disease, weight training can probably benefit you. In recent years, progressive resistance training (or PRT) has been used in coordination with disease treatment to assist in day to day function and even to achieve more permanent improvement. We'll take a look at how weight training can benefit people with some of the most common chronic health conditions.

Weight Training and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease includes heart attacks, stroke, artery disease, and heart failure. Weight training is increasingly approved in cardiac rehabilitation programs, usually to complement aerobic training. With appropriate supervision and programming, it has been shown to be safe and effective in building strength and mobility, complementing a wider recovery program.

Metabolic Syndrome and Exercise

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms that can include excess weight, high blood pressure (hypertension), glucose intolerance and high cholesterol. Both aerobic training and resistance training can provide benefits; however, high-intensity weight training is ill-advised for those with uncontrolled hypertension.

Diabetes and Progressive Resistance Training​

In a randomized trial, high-intensity progressive resistance training in type 2 diabetics improved glucose control, increased lean body mass, reduced systolic blood pressure, reduced fat mass, reduced glycated hemoglobin A1c and allowed a reduction in medication compared to a non-exercise control group.

Weight training programs are increasingly being recommended in diabetes management.

Cancer and Strength Training

Strength training has been employed with success with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for breast cancer patients post-surgery, and has been shown to prevent and even reverse the adverse effects of testosterone suppression chemotherapy in men with prostate cancer.

Benefits in all situations included lean mass maintenance, strength, and fitness enhancement.

Depression and Exercise

In one randomized trial, high-intensity progressive weight training was found to be more effective than low-intensity weight training or medical care for the treatment of older depressed patients. (Singh 2005)

Additional studies of resistance training for depression have produced positive results, perhaps in relation to sleep and mood enhancement.

Osteoporosis, Bone Quality, and Exercise

Evaluation of the effects of exercise on bone quality suggests variable results according to age, hormonal status, nutrition and exercise type. However, in a review, a Tufts University group stated that: "Both aerobic and resistance training exercise can provide weight-bearing stimulus to bone, yet research indicates that resistance training may have a more profound site-specific effect than aerobic exercise."

Lung Function and Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation from, or management of, deficiencies in lung function such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) usually involve aerobic exercise such as walking. In recent years, however, strength training has also been tried with some success.

It seems that strength and perhaps stability improvements provide the functionality to increase exercise capacity and tolerance, resulting in better performance all round.

Parkinson's Disease and Resistance Training

A ground-breaking study found that high-force eccentric resistance training produced improved mobility in Parkinson's disease patients compared to conventional care. Eccentric training targets the return movement of joint action -- a straightening leg under weight emphasizing the quadriceps muscle of the thigh for example. (Dibble 2006)

HIV/AIDS and Weight Training

Weight training has been shown to be safe and provide benefits within a general fitness program for sufferers of HIV/AIDS.

Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

Both osteoarthritis and autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis responded to strength training with measurable benefit in carefully constructed programs of progressive resistance training. The belief that joint inflammation, pain and inflexibility as a result of arthritis are best treated with rest and little movement stress seems to have gone right out the door as the exercise modalities prove their worth in maintaining and perhaps restoring function. Optimum programs are still to be established.

Fibromyalgia patients have responded positively to resistance training.

The Weight Training Bottom Line

Though the list above is not comprehensive, it does provide a wealth of information on how beneficial weight training can be - even for people with chronic health conditions and perhaps especially for those people. New applications for weight training for health conditions emerge regularly.


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