Studies Suggest Lifting Weights Helps You Live Longer
Who would have thought that pumping iron could help us live longer?
If you go to the gym but skip the weight room, studies suggest you could be impacting the number of candles that will be on your birthday cake. There have been several studies that found a correlation between our lifespan and strength training.
One of the latest studies published in 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association found women with an average age of 62 who performed 145 minutes per week strength training were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease during this 12-year study period.
While the body of research is growing that highlights the importance of strength training, much of the research has been focused on older adults.
A study in 2018 followed 80,000 adults over the age of 30. Researchers found that combining strength training with aerobic exercise reduced the risk of premature death by an astounding 23%, when compared to aerobic exercise only.
So How Does Lifting Affect Our Lifespan?
While there are several studies that show a clear correlation to lifespan and strength training, the connection is unclear.
Kate Duchowny, PhD, MPH, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California San Francisco, whose research was published in The Journals of Gerontology. Her study found that those with a low muscle strength were 50% more likely to die earlier.
She suspects that the lack of muscle strength eventually leads you to become even more sedentary — increasing our risk for chronic disease and death.
“Being active means using your muscles — and maintaining muscle strength throughout your life can help you live longer,” Duchowny says. “It’s a powerful finding.”
This information is very important because age-related muscle loss starts in your 30s, and accelerates in your 50s. This is why it's important to start building muscle early in life so you can maintain that strength as you age.
The U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest engaging in a moderate to high-intensity strength training workout that involve all major muscle groups at least twice per week.
Popular Lifting Myths
There's a lot of lifting myths out there, but I've chosen three that are specific to this article.
Myth 1 - You Have to Pump Iron to Benefit
Using free weights and machines to add resistance is a great way to build strength... but it's not the only way.
Activities like climbing stairs, carrying all of the groceries in one trip, or moving furniture all count as strength training. Some research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that exercises such as sit ups, lunges, and push ups are all strength training moves.
This means that bodyweight exercises are still strength training... so there's no excuse.
Myth 2 - You Have to Use the Heaviest Weights Possible
If you look around any social media platform, you'll see people squatting 800 pounds, benching 405 like it's nothing, or deadlifting 900 and breaking world records.
While lifting heavier is the goal, you don't have to have the heaviest weight on the rack in your hands. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found doing 20 to 25 reps with lighter weight was just as efficient for building strength as doing 8 to 12 reps with heavier weights.
The benefit to this is you are able to lift for years without beating your body down. Squatting 400 to 500 pounds every time I squat really puts a strain on my body. Instead, repping 225 puts my muscles to the test without beating me up.
Myth 3 - I'm Too Old to Start
I refrain from writing anything that would be seen as controversial or rub anyone the wrong way, but I need to stress something here.
You're never too old to start training so quit using that as an excuse. Every day you choose that excuse over some sort of physical activity, you're basically choosing to make your life shorter than it would be if you exercised. Period.
Research conducted on nursing home patients aged 77 and older and found that those who started a strength training program improved their muscle strength 108% after eight weeks.
There are numerous studies that show how dramatic of an increase in strength people attain when they start exercising for the first time in their 70's and beyond. Strength training is an important part of preventive medicine, so if you aren't doing some sort of strength training, you need to start now.
It's never too late unless you never start.
Wrapping It Up
It doesn't matter if you struggle picking up a milk jug or you can bench 315, remaining active and performing some strength training exercise is paramount to our longevity.
You don't have to go to a gym to strength train, you don't have to beat your body down, and you can start whenever.
The most important part is starting.