Lifting weights could help you live longer

Study involving 100,000 older adults reveals benefits of 'pumping iron'

Academics found that a combination of weightlifting and aerobic exercise every week reaped the most benefits. PA
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People have been urged to participate in regular weightlifting after a study found that “pumping iron” could cut the risk of dying early.

Academics found that a combination of weightlifting and aerobic exercise every week reaped the most benefits.

While most physical activity recommendations include muscle-strengthening exercises, few studies have looked specifically at the connection between weightlifting and the lower risk of early death.

Researchers, led by academics at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, in the US, examined the data of about 100,000 adults taking part in a screening study.

Participants, who had an average age of 71, gave information on their weightlifting activity and told researchers about any other exercise they took part in.

About 23 per cent reported some weightlifting activity and 16 per cent reported lifting weights regularly, between one and six times per week.

Almost a third (32 per cent) were deemed to be “sufficiently active” by researchers, with 24 per cent meeting aerobic activity guidelines and 8 per cent exceeding them.

During the follow-up period of 9.6 years, there were 28,477 deaths among the participants.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that adults who reported that they lifted weights had a 9 per cent lower “all-cause mortality risk”.

A similar observation was made for heart disease deaths but no link was found between weight-training and cancer deaths.

Those who took part in “regular” weightlifting were found to have a 14 per cent lower risk of death.

Those who met the aerobic activity levels had a 32 per cent lower risk of death.

Adults who reported meeting the aerobic activity guidelines and weightlifting at least one or two times every week were found to have a 41 per cent to 47 per cent lower risk of death.

“Weightlifting in older adults was independently associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality,” the authors wrote.

“Among adults reporting no aerobic MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity], any weightlifting was associated with 9-22 per cent lower all-cause mortality.

“Lower all-cause mortality was observed in older adults doing either aerobic or weightlifting exercise, but the lowest mortality risk was seen among adults who reported both types of exercise.

“The weightlifting-associated mortality benefit shown here provides initial evidence to clinicians and other health professionals that older adults would probably benefit from adding weightlifting exercises to their physical activity routines.”

Adults are urged to take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity.

In addition, they are encouraged to do “strengthening activities” that work on the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms at least two days a week.

Updated: September 27, 2022, 10:30 PM