Fitness & Health

Resistance training can help sufferers of fatty liver disease

Resistance training in the gym leads to a fall in liver fat levels according to a new study held at the University of Haifa.

“For patients suffering from physical limitations or low motivation that prevents them performing aerobic exercises, resistance training can be an effective alternative,” comments Dr. Shira Zelber-Sagi from the School of Public Health, who undertook the study.

overweight man on bike

Resistance training can be an effective alternative to cardio.

On the basis of past studies, fatty liver disease is defined as a fat rate in excess of 5-10 percent of liver volume.

The disease affects approximately 30 percent of the public and is considered the commonest liver disease in the Western world.

Excessive weight, abdominal obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia and in particular triglycerides increase the risk of developing fatty liver disease, which can lead to inflammation and cirrhosis of the liver.

The disease is usually asymptomatic, although patients sometimes report fatigue and a lack of vitality by comparison to healthy individuals.

Prof Oren Shibolet adds that “Fatty liver causes morbidity and mortality due to metabolic complications such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the development of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Because drug treatment for the disease is very limited or nonexistent, the main emphasis is on life style modifications. In this aspect our study is one of a few clinical trials to show the benefit of resistance training in reducing liver fat”.

According to Dr. Zelber-Sagi, although patients with the disease recognise the importance of physical activity, they often lack the motivation to engage in such activity, particularly in the case of aerobic exercises, which are usually time-consuming.

The researchers decided to examine the impact of resistance training – which is usually briefer and more focused than aerobic exercises – on fatty liver disease.

The study included 82 subjects aged 20-65 who were diagnosed by means of an ultrasound as suffering from fatty liver disease over the six months before the beginning of the study.

The participants were divided randomly into a resistance training group and a control group that was asked only to undertake stretching exercises.

The participants were asked not to change their physical activity habits during the study, to continue their usual diet and to take their prescribed medicines.

During the study the participants underwent examinations of weight, blood pressure, a blood test for liver enzymes, lipids, blood sugar and insulin.

Resistance training in the gym was defined according to a uniform protocol, with the level of resistance adjusted to the patient’s capabilities.

The training included several sets of different resistance exercises involving the arms, chest and legs, and lasting for a total of 40 minutes, three times a week.

At the end of the three-month study, the researchers found that resistance training in the gym led to a decrease in liver fat based on the fat content of the liver as detected in the special ultrasound examination employed by the study.

The resistance training was not intended to reduce body weight significantly and indeed overall weight loss was very slight.

However, it seems that the resistance training had a specific impact in terms of a fall in liver fat levels as measured in the ultrasound examination.

The study also found that gym training also led to a significant fall in blood cholesterol levels.

Source: University of Haifa

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