Adipose tissue (the fancy word for fat) and skeletal muscle used to be thought solely as a storage repository of energy, and tissue that allows the human body to move. However, that paradigm is changing. Pioneering work in the 1980s demonstrated that adipose tissues are not inert storage compartments but instead secrete proteins that have wide range of effects (1). But during the past decade, skeletal muscle has been identified as a secretory organ.
The secretory peptides (proteins), knowns as myokines, tend to counteract the pro-inflammatory secretory products from adipose tissues that can damage your cardiovascular system, pancreas, and increase the risk of the development of Type 2 Diabetes, Cancer and Osteoporosis. However, many of these beneficial myokines are reliant on muscle contraction to be released. Therefore myokines could be a potential explanation about the link between sedentary behaviour and many chronic diseases since myokines have such wide ranging effect on various organ systems. Further it could explain how strength training can improve insulin sensitivity independent of aerobic exercise (3).
Certainly, I am biased towards the importance of strength training given my background as an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist but the research backs up my conviction. I used to think that strength training is so important because it helps maintain lean body mass, and bone strength, while preventing falls which becomes ever increasingly important as we age. This is true, but this new cutting edge research demonstrates that muscle is a secretory organ, that produces myokines upon contraction that have wide ranging positive effects on the body, including the cardiovascular system and pancreas. Therefore, to optimize our health and well being we really need to follow the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines and include both aerobic and strength training in our minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigourous activity per week.
- Upon contraction muscles release protein known as myokines that have wide ranging positive effects on many organ systems
- Aerobic training has many benefits, but we are starting to understand the plethora of benefits of strength training as well and why both should be included in your regular exercise routine.
- If you are not sure where to get started with creating a strength training program, start with compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, incline press etc.), and get a friend who knows what they are talking about or hire a personal trainer who is competent (not everyone knows what they are doing) to show you the proper form. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself just as you begin a strength training program.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
1. Cook, K. S., Min, H. Y., Johnson, D., Chaplinsky, R. J., Flier, J. S., Hunt, C. R., & Spiegelman, B. M. (1987). Adipsin: a circulating serine protease homolog secreted by adipose tissue and sciatic nerve. Science (New York, N.Y.), 237(4813), 402–5. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3299705
2. Pedersen, B. K., & Febbraio, M. A. (2012). Muscles, exercise and obesity: skeletal muscle as a secretory organ. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 8(8), 457–465. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2012.49
3. Pedersen, B. K., & Febbraio, M. A. (2012). Muscles, exercise and obesity: skeletal muscle as a secretory organ. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 8(8), 457–465. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2
I am a medical student who is obsessed with the Be Activated Muscle Activation Technique, mastering movement and understanding what makes humans thrive.