An hour of strength training per week cuts risk of death by up to 20%
Keeping our muscles strong and healthy can be beneficial to our health in ways that extend far beyond simply looking good on the beach, with research showing how it can boost bone density, joint flexibility and maintain a healthy weight, as demonstrated by one recent study. Research has also uncovered associations between muscle strength training and a lower risk of death, and a new study has drilled into this phenomenon to find as little as half an hour per week can have significant benefits.
The study was carried out by scientists in Japan who analyzed data from 16 observational studies concerning subjects all over the world, with participant numbers ranging from 4,000 to 480,000. All were adults aged 18 to 97 and without major health issues, who had been monitored for at least two years.
The analysis showed that independent of aerobic exercise like running or cycling, muscle strengthening activity was associated with a 10 to 17 percent reduction in risk of death from any cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The most profound effects, however, were observed in people who undertook 30 to 60 minutes of muscle strength training per week, which was linked with a 10 to 20 percent reduced risk of death from all causes, and death from cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
This relationship is described as a J-shaped curve in most cases, while an L-shaped curve was observed in relation to diabetes risk, with the greatest reduction seen at 60 minutes of muscle strengthening activities per week, and gradually tapering off from there. Interestingly, the analysis provided no evidence that doing more than an hour of strength training per week reduced these risks even further (though that's not to say there aren't other health benefits to be had).
These sorts of activities could include weight lifting, use of resistance bands, push ups, sit ups, squats and even heavy gardening like digging and shoveling. The authors say that when this form of exercise was combined with aerobic activity the risks were reduced even further – by 40 percent for all-cause mortality, 46 percent for cardiovascular disease and 28 percent for cancer.
There are a few limitations with the research, the authors note, including the fact that they relied on subjective assessments of exercise activity, and the majority of the studies took place in the US and the results therefore may not be widely applicable. They do believe, however, that the research lays a good foundation for further studies in the area.
"The combination of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities may provide a greater benefit for reducing all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and total cancer mortality," they researchers concluded. "Given that the available data are limited, further studies – such as studies focusing on a more diverse population – are needed to increase the certainty of the evidence."
The research was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Source: British Medical Journal