The Taiwan Epidemiology Association on Wednesday warned that limiting weight training to the upper body increases the risk of cardiovascular disease after a survey found that nearly half of male university students only train the upper body.
The survey, which targeted 100 students at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, found that 51.4 percent of students participate in weight training, said Hua Kai-lung (花凱龍), a vice dean at the university’s College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
The survey showed that female students prefer lower-body and core strength workouts, while male students tend to focus on training the upper body, he said, adding that 47.1 percent of male students train only the upper body.
However, a study in Japan showed that training the upper body stimulates the release of norepinephrine, promoting vasoconstriction over a short period, said Chiou Hung-yi (邱弘毅), an association member and a professor at Taipei Medical University’s School of Public Health.
The blood vessels contract and blood flow increases, potentially increasing pressure in the blood vessels and the stiffness of the vessels, making the individual more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, he said.
Mackay Medical College Department of Medicine professor Wang Li-yu (王豊裕) said that from 2010 to July, he studied ultrasound images of 3,309 people aged 40 to 75.
Wang said he found that among adults aged 65 or older, the prevalence of atherosclerosis in the neck, which could lead to cardiovascular disease, was about 49 percent for men and 33 percent for women.
A Chang Gung University study found that people with waist-to-thigh ratios of 1.8 or above have a two times greater risk of developing chronic disease, university vice president Hsu Kuang-hung (許光宏) said.
People should not neglect lower-body training, as having enough muscle mass in the legs could lower insulin resistance or even prevent inflammation, Hsu said.
If a person’s lower body is not strong enough, the risk of falling or developing a disability in old age increases, Chiou said, adding that people should opt for total-body resistance exercises.
For example, squats improve cardiovascular health and lower the risk of chronic disease, Chiou added.
However, the study showed that many students do not maintain the proper posture when doing squats, Hua said, adding that incorrect posture can injure the muscles in the waist or the joints, cause muscle strain and lead to other problems.
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