Is Exercise the Ultimate Antioxidant?


According to the latest research, strength training is one of your best defenses against oxidative stress.

In fact, after a mere 6 weeks of of workouts, test subjects saw significant improvement in two key markers of oxidative stress

And when you consider that oxidative stress is directly responsible for atherosclerosisParkinson’s diseaseheart failuremyocardial infarctionAlzheimer’s diseasefragile X syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and aging in general, perhaps we should stop selling gym memberships based on getting a wicked six-pack and focus more on….living healthier, living longer, living better, etc…

The Research

J Strength Cond Res 24(9): 2491-2497, 2010

The purposes of this study were:

  1. to determine whether acute resistance exercise training (RET) induces oxidative stress,
  2. to determine whether chronic RET decreases oxidative stress level at rest condition in previously untrained men,
  3. and also to investigate how the RET intensity influences the training-induced oxidative stress response.

Sixteen young men who did not have RET experience in the past were randomly divided in 2 groups.

The hypertrophy-intensity group performed 3 sets of 12 repetitions at an intensity corresponding to 70% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM), whereas the strength-intensity group performed 3 sets of 6 repetitions at an intensity corresponding to 85% of 1RM.

The workouts  involved 6 exercises, and it was performed 3 times a week on nonconsecutive days for 6 weeks.

Blood samples were obtained just before (pre-RET) and immediately after RET (post-RET) on the first day of the first week, on the last day of the fourth and sixth weeks.

After 6 weeks of training, pre-RET values of malondialdehyde (MDA) significantly decreased and pre-RET values of glutathione (GSH)significantly increased in both hypertrophy- and strength-intensity groups.

These alterations occurred independently of training intensity.


This study indicated that hypertrophy- and strength-intensity whole-body RET performed regularly for 6 weeks, decreased MDA concentration and increased GSH level in healthy young men.

Results suggest that chronic RET has protective effects against oxidative stress similar to aerobic exercises and that these effects seem to be independent of the training intensity.


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  1. While what you eat makes up the majority of your body composition, one should not expect to live a healthy lifestyle by sitting around and doing nothing. Grok moved and moved a lot. And, of course he lifted quite heavy things just to get food, shelter, etc. We take these things for granted and now have to make an effort to lift weights which is why so many of us don’t unfortunately.

  2. I think this is a way out. I for example do a lot of physical work – all kinds of it and feel great. Also I use modern gadgets for keeping fit and healthy. Like for example All in fitness for iPhone by Viaden Mobile. The application has four parts which include training modes, calorie counter and so on. It can be a real help for a person while trying to be healthy.

  3. This reminds me of the OTHER never-ending cycle involving exercise: people say they’re too tired to work out, but engaging in physical activity actually gives you energy! This new research presents something similar: you have to exercise to maintain your health, but you have to be healthy enough to have the motivation the work out. Bottom line: physical activity has a wide range of health benefits, the fact that it also makes you more aesthetically appealing is just a bonus.

  4. I am proof that exercise works as I have been off blood pressure pills now for 6 took me 1 year working out 6 days a week for 70 minutes ,I have lost 23 lbs and 4 inches off my waist.I am also sporting 16 inch pumped guns and a 30 inch waist,Not bad for a young 59.But I am not finished yet.My wife says I will die happy with a set of dumb bells in my hands.For those that say they can’t work out because of a bad back I had the L 5 disc removed 20 years ago and the spine fused.

  5. Actually studies have shown that extreme exercise produces excessive amounts of free radicals requiring more antioxidants to counter them.

  6. I think the “my study vs. your study” is not necessarily conflicting in this case. There has been prior research showing that exercise produces ROS, which makes sense, and it has been recommended to take antioxidants post-workout as a logical assumption. But what healthhabits is showing in this article is the body has a natural defense mechanism against the ROS created from exercise.

    In a relatively recent study, it was shown that the exogenous antioxidants actually hindered the body’s natural antioxidant defense capabilities.

    Ristow et al. (2009) published an article “Antioxidants prevent health-promoting effects of physical exercise in humans” which concluded: Molecular mediators of endogenous ROS defense (superoxide dismutases 1 and 2; glutathione peroxidase) were also induced by exercise, and this effect too was blocked by antioxidant supplementation. Consistent with the concept of mitohormesis, exercise-induced oxidative stress ameliorates insulin resistance and causes an adaptive response promoting endogenous antioxidant defense capacity. Supplementation with antioxidants may preclude these health-promoting effects of exercise in humans.

  7. As a person who eats very healthy and conciously includes plentiful sources of potent anti-oxidants in my diet as well as taking omega-3 fa supplements, vit d and calcium supplements and a MV supplement, I can vouch for exercise as when I DON’T exercise, I immediately feel the difference in my performance, my mental capacity, my mood, and my physiology.

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