A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has linked muscle-strengthening exercises to a lower risk of all-cause mortality. While most previous research has focused on the (well-established) benefits of aerobic exercise, relatively few studies have examined the link between muscle strengthening and mortality.
The review and meta-analysis included sixteen previous studies and examined how time spent on muscle-strengthening activities was related to mortality and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Interestingly, the researchers found that the relationship between muscle-strengthening activities and all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer was J shaped, with the maximum risk reduction (about 10–20%) occurring at 30–60 minutes of exercise per week. The relationship with diabetes, on the other hand, was L-shaped, with exercise up 60 minutes per week significantly reducing risk. The researchers also found that a combination of muscle-strengthening and aerobic activities lowered the risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality.
The health benefits of physical activity are well known. Immediate benefits after an exercise session include greater cognitive skills and lowered feels of anxiety. Long-term exercise leads to better sleep, improved weight management, lower risk of a range of health conditions (including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and some cancers), and improved overall wellbeing. Amazingly, people who participate in physical activity for an average of 150 minutes per week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who do not participate in physical activity. However, even small amounts of exercise every week can add up to serious benefits; just 10 minutes per day of moderate exercise has been shown to increase lifespan, with more exercise leading to greater improvements in longevity.