FRIDAY, March 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Lifting weights twice a week can help women prevent "middle-aged spread" and keep their hearts healthy, a new study shows.
"On average, women in the middle years of their lives gain one to two pounds a year, and most of this is assumed to be fat," study author Kathryn H. Schmitz, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said in a prepared statement.
"This study shows that strength training can prevent increases in body fat percentage and attenuate increases in the fat depot most closely associated with heart disease. While an annual weight gain of one to two pounds doesn't sound like much, over 10 to 20 years the gain is significant," Schmitz said.
The study included 164 overweight and obese women, aged 24 to 44, divided into two groups. One group took part in a 16-week program of supervised strength training classes, which were followed up with booster sessions four times a year for two years.
The other group of women received a brochure that recommended they get 30 minutes to an hour of exercise most days of the week.
Both groups were told not to change their diets in ways that might lead to weight changes during the study.
By the end of two years, the women in the weight-training group showed an average 3.7 percent decrease in body fat, while the women in the brochure group showed no change in body fat. The study also found that weight training reduced intra-abdominal fat, which is associated with heart disease and metabolic disturbances.
The findings were presented Friday at the American Heart Association's annual conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, in Phoenix.
Schmitz said that weight training is a fairly time-efficient way to prevent these small annual increases in weight that may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heart disease and women.