Working out to sculpt stronger muscles isn’t just for show — it could help you live a longer, healthier life. A new study exploring the links between muscle-strengthening activities and the risk of death finds that as little as 30 minutes of strength training per week could help reduce the risk of dying by 20 percent.
The science and other stuff to know
Researchers from Tohoku University, Kyushu University, and Waseda University in Japan reviewed data from 16 studies published from 2012 to 2020 that compared exercise habits with rates of deaths from major illnesses, according to the study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Compared with people who didn’t do any muscle-strengthening activities, those who did 30 to 60 minutes of resistance, strength, or weight training per week were “significantly less likely to die of any cause during the studies”. They had a lower risk of specific illnesses like heart disease (17 percent lower risk), cancer (12 percent lower risk), and diabetes (17 percent lower risk), the study showed.
The study also points out that health benefits are greatest when strength exercises are combined with aerobic exercise. Those who strength trained for about an hour weekly and performed about 150 minutes of aerobic training showed a 40 percent reduction in death risk reduction from any cause, a 46 percent reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, and a 28 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.
Researchers find that the apparent disease-prevention benefits of strength training seem to max out at 30 to 60 minutes a week for most health risks. The study also supports working smarter, not harder. Thus, you don’t need to be a gym rat to benefit from a consistent exercise routine.
Corroborating with previous research, the study suggests that as little as two workouts a week could offer significant health and muscle-building benefits. Additionally, the study notes a wide range of activities counts as muscle-building exercise, including bodyweight movements like push-ups, squats, yoga, resistance band workouts, and heavy gardening.
The researchers of this new study also acknowledge limitations to their findings, including data. “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 study notes.
Besides muscle-strengthening activities, there are other ways to maintain good health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating a well-balanced, low-fat diet with lots of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. You should also choose a diet that’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and moderate in sugar, salt, and total fat.