Without strength training, a person will have weak muscles, and new research shows that low muscle strength is linked to ALS – and this link specifically applies to #1) having weak muscles during later teen years, and #2) a much later in life development of ALS.
The new study finding comes from Sahlgrenska Academy, Sweden, and is published in the Journal of Neurology.
Maria Aberg, lead study author, professor of neurobiology and physician, clearly points out that the results of this new kind of study need to be replicated.
However, the report also states that “we still must say that what we have found is noteworthy.”
How the Study Was Conducted
• Swedish military enlistment data for over 1.8 million men between 1968 and 2005 was analyzed.
• So was data from the Swedish mortality register and health care register.
• Most of the subject were age 18 at the time of enlistment.
• Follow-up time was up to 46 years.
• Among the subjects, 526 developed ALS, which usually occurs after 50.
Results of the Study strength training
• ALS is associated with a relatively low body mass index—even in the late teens.
• The study did NOT make a distinction between “skinny fat” and “lean muscular.”
• Remember, body mass index (BMI) does not account for amount of muscle mass or percentage of body fat. It’s a number that’s derived from body weight and height.
Thus, two young adults the same height and weight could have entirely different body compositions – one having much more muscle than the other – yet still fit into the same attire.
• The subjects who developed ALS had an average BMI of 21.1, coming in a little lower than the average of 21.9 for the overall group.
• Another intriguing finding was that ALS was linked to low blood counts at the time of military enlistment: low proportion of red blood cells (which carry oxygen) in the blood.
• The most intriguing finding was the association between ALS and measured muscle strength in the legs, arms and hands at the time of enlistment.
“Those with the lowest muscle strength had a significant risk of getting ALS 30 years later,” says Aberg in the paper.
“Here we found conflicting data. Some of it indicated the risk increases if you engage in very strenuous exercise,” continues the paper, “while other data suggested that physical activity may even be preventive.”
The paper adds, “But we saw no increase in risk if a person was physically fit or in less good shape.”
Though ALS was associated with less muscle strength, this does not prove cause and effect. But of course, this association can’t be ignored, either.
“But we have no answers as to why a particular group has lower muscle strength more than 30 years before becoming sick,” says Aberg in the report.
The study begs the question: Can hardcore strength training, especially beginning at a young age, lower the risk of ALS?