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Include Strength Training For Increased Longevity

Strength training is gaining recognition as an important and unique factor in health and longevity. Recently, a strength-training program was correlated with better weight loss and muscle retention than an aerobic training program. And new findings suggest that, for lowering the overall risk of death, getting the recommended amount of strength training may be as important as getting the recommended amount of aerobic exercise. Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the study included data from 80,306 participants in the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey. The participants were at least 30 years old upon enrollment and were followed from 1994–2008. Researchers looked at the amount and type of exercise the adults performed, including strength training (both gym-based and bodyweight workouts) and aerobic activity. They then compared this information with deaths recorded in the NHS Central Mortality Register. After adjusting for factors such as age, gender, health status, lifestyle behaviors, and education, researchers found:

  • Doing any kind of strength training was associated with a 23% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 31% reduced risk of cancer.
  • The positive effects of strength training on risk of death were similar in those who did exercises using bodyweight and those who used machines or free weights.
  • Strength training alone, involving at least two sessions per week as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), was associated with a 21% reduced risk of death from all causes and a 34% reduced risk of cancer deaths, but did not appear to have any effect on cardiovascular deaths.
  • Aerobic training alone, involving at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week as recommended by WHO, was associated with a 16% reduced risk of death from all causes and a 22% reduced risk of cardiovascular deaths, but did not appear to have an effect on cancer deaths.
  • Following both the strength training and aerobic activity recommendations was associated with a 29% reduced risk of all-cause death and a 30% reduced risk of cancer death.

So, what do all these numbers mean? In short, strength training may play a huge role in longevity—probably at least as much as aerobic exercise. While it’s recommended that you do both, research shows that fewer people adhere to strength training recommendations than aerobic ones. But, even if you can’t make it to the gym, there’s no need to shun strength training: bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere, and can be as simple as doing a few reps of push-ups or sit-ups every few days before bed.

Source: American Journal of Epidemiology

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