Regular physical activity has many well-known health benefits, one of which is that it may help you live longer. But what remains to be determined is the types and duration of exercise that offer the most protection.
In a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that while aerobic or strength training exercise was associated with a lower risk of death during the study’s time frame, regular practice of both — one to three hours per week of aerobic exercise and a session or Two weekly strength-training sessions were associated with lower mortality risk.
Shifting from a sedentary lifestyle to an exercise schedule is comparable to “smoking versus not smoking,” said Carver Coleman, a data scientist and one of the study’s authors.
The paper is the latest evidence in a trend showing the importance of strength training in longevity and overall health. “The study is exciting because it supports a combination of aerobic and strength training,” said Dr. Kenneth Consilga, a geriatrician at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the study. “This is definitely something I talk about with my patients all the time.”
Cardio exercises plus strength training
For the study, the researchers used National Health Interview Survey data, which tracked 416,420 US adults recruited between 1997 and 2014. Participants filled out questionnaires detailing the types of physical activity they were engaged in, which included determining how much moderate or vigorous exercise they did, along with how many Muscle strengthening exercises they did in a week.
After adjusting for factors such as age, gender, income, education, marital status, and whether they had chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, the researchers found that people who did moderate to vigorous aerobic activity for one hour per week had (a) a lower risk of mortality. by 15 percent. Mortality risk was 27 percent lower for those who exercised three hours a week.
But those who also engaged in one to two sessions of strength training per week had a lower risk of death — 40 percent lower than those who did not exercise at all. This was roughly the difference between a non-smoker and someone who usually had half a pack a day.
The link between strength training and longevity
Experts say it has been difficult to study longevity and strength training exercises because so few people do them regularly. Even in the latest study, only 24 percent of participants did regular strength training (versus 63 percent who said they did aerobic exercise). “Even with huge groups like us here, the numbers are still relatively small,” said Arden Pope, an economist at Brigham Young University and one of the authors of the paper.
However, research is starting to catch up. In a recent meta-analysis, published in February, also in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers were able to determine the effect of strength training on longevity outside of aerobic activity.
They found that the largest reduction was associated with 30 to 60 minutes of strength training per week, with a 10-20% reduction in the risk of death, cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, as Haruki Muma, a sports scientist at Tohoku University and one of the study’s authors, points out, more research is needed to find the optimal amount of strength training.
Regular strength training
Although more research is needed, experts generally agree that regular strength training can have important benefits for healthy aging, including maintaining a high quality of life.
“You’ll work at a much higher level for much longer if you have good muscle strength,” said Dr. Bruce Moseley, an orthopedic surgeon at Baylor College of Medicine.
Muscle strength is required for a number of daily activities, such as getting out of a chair, opening a bowl of pickles, carrying groceries home or doing yard work. “We gradually lose muscle mass as we age,” said Monica Ciolino, a physical therapist at Washington University in St. Louis.
This muscle loss typically begins in a person’s 30s and progresses with age. However, Ciolino said, “we can totally stave off negative effects” with regular strength training. And it’s not too late to start. Research shows that even 70s with movement problems can benefit from a regular strength training program.
Moseley suggests targeting a consistent strength training schedule and toning down to avoid injuries from overuse. “Keep it light and easy at first,” he said. “Once your body starts to adapt, you can start to increase.”
If you’re still not sure about specific exercises, he recommends seeking expert advice with an exercise class or consulting a personal trainer. The important thing is to start and make it a habit, he said. Not only will it help you live longer, but it will improve your quality of life.
When I ask people, ‘What does successful aging mean to you? “People say they want to be independent, they want to maintain their job and quality of life, they want to do the things they want to do,” he said. “It’s not necessarily just to live as long as possible.” – This article originally appeared in The New York Times