4 Questions Answered About How Strength Training Increases Longevity
Want to live longer?
Want to know how to live longer?
We’ve got the answer.
Makes you feel bad for the wild goose chase Ponce de Leon lead, trudging his troops through Florida searching for the Fountain of Youth.
Poor guy certainly didn’t have a gym filled with barbells and dumbbells on his radar.
The barbell is mightier than the sword.
Want a new lease on life, or to pad some extra years on?
Then get to strength training, after you figure out which strength sport best suits you.
Let’s answer 4 questions about how strength training extends your life.
1. Why should I care about increasing my longevity?
Everyone knows, no one is getting out of here alive. Pessimists might ask why they want to extend their life with years on the backend, that will likely be riddled with aches, pains, ailments, maladies and disease. Well, that’s actually the point right there.
Much ado has been made in recent years about research released about the top regrets of people who are dying. Take a guess what one of them is.
I wish I would have taken better care of myself.
We all know the pithy line about treating your body like a temple, yet most of us in practice, end up looking like the remains of the Parthenon. The wisdom of the terminally ill tells us that “…we take our body for granted and eat what we shouldn’t be eating, we don’t sleep as much as we should, we don’t exercise as often and in some cases, we work so hard, we forget to take a vacation. Life should be lived with a balance and taking care of yourself so you can live a long, healthy and happy life should be a top priority.”
Unlike golf, there are no mulligans.
Perhaps we might consider sacrificing pleasure in the present to avoid suffering and pain in the future.
I’ve seen people die from cancer. It’s neither pretty nor painless. If the insight of the dying doesn’t convince you, nothing will.
2. I thought cardio exercise extends my life, why is it strength training now?
Cardio does lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, and cancer. There’s a bundle of research out there about that, however, there’s much less research about how strength training increases longevity. In a recent study that looked at 30,000 people over the age of 65, only 9% reported a strength training habit.
However, “…those lifters had a 46 percent less risk of early death than people who didn't. They were also 41 percent less likely to have a cardiac-related death and 19 percent less likely to die from cancer. And the results held even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors like smoking or alcohol use.”
According to Dr. Robert Schreiber, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, "Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate."
Live action shot of the Fountain of Youth.
3. I heard grip strength is the most important, and not my arm, leg or chest strength?
You should keep all your muscles strong and well-conditioned. Don’t hyper-focus on one area of strength, at the expense of all the rest. That said, the best indicator of longevity now points to grip strength.
Grip strength? What???
Yeah that’s right.
This is how you learn to squeeze the Charmin.
A University of Michigan study has found that stronger people outlive weaker ones. The study concluded that “people with low muscle strength are 50 percent more likely to die earlier.” But what’s the link to grip strength?
The same study discovered that “…hand grip strength specifically has been found to be inversely related to mobility limitations and disability.” Our mobility, agility and motor skills deteriorate with age making formerly easy tasks like holding a railing, making a cup of tea or buttoning a shirt, a challenging task. Thus, we begin to lose our independence. However, if we maintain a baseline of healthy strength, we can cut off, or at least delay, the loss of independence. One of the main injury risks for the elderly is falling. But if their grip strength is right, then they can hold onto handles, railings and walkers without worry allowing them to live and age independently.
4. Is it true that “strength training” means that I have to buy a bunch of expensive equipment?
A paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that compared mortality rates of different types of exercises found that when combined with aerobic exercise, strength training reduced the risk of premature death more than aerobic exercise alone.
Bodyweight excercises make life a beach!
Moreover, the research found that 2 weekly sessions of body weight training (pushups, sit ups, dips, pull-ups, etc.) or strength training, with no aerobic exercise included, “reduced the risk of premature death by 23% and of cancer-related death by 31%.”
Doctors recommend strength training of all major muscle groups at least twice weekly, and to do so properly, you may consider buying a budget-friendly piece of gear or two.