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Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 1 - p 40–46
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001063

Purpose: This study aimed to examine the association of strength training with incident type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

Methods: We followed 35,754 healthy women (mean age = 62.6 yr, range = 47.0–97.8) from the Women’s Health Study, who responded to a health questionnaire that included physical activity questions in 2000, assessing health outcomes through annual health questionnaire through 2014 (mean ± SD follow-up = 10.7 ± 3.7 yr). Incident type 2 diabetes (N cases = 2120) and cardiovascular disease (N cases = 1742) were confirmed on medical record review. Cases of cardiovascular disease were defined as confirmed cases of myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary artery bypass graft, angioplasty, or cardiovascular disease death.

Results: Compared with women who reported no strength training, women engaging in any strength training experienced a reduced rate of type 2 diabetes of 30% (hazard ratio = 0.70, 95% confidence interval = 0.61–0.80) when controlling for time spent in other activities and other confounders. A risk reduction of 17% was observed for cardiovascular disease among women engaging in strength training (hazard ratio = 0.83, 95% confidence interval = 0.72, 0.96). Participation in both strength training and aerobic activity was associated with additional risk reductions for both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease compared with participation in aerobic activity only.

Conclusions: These data support the inclusion of muscle-strengthening exercises in physical activity regimens for reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, independent of aerobic exercise. Further research is needed to determine the optimum dose and intensity of muscle-strengthening exercises.

1Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Science, Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD; 2Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; 3Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA; and 4Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA

Address for correspondence: Eric J Shiroma, Sc.D., M.Ed., 7201 Wisconsin Ave., Gateway Bldg., Suite 3C309, Bethesda, MD 20814; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2016.

Accepted for publication July 2016.

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© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine