Physical exercise reduces cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia, obesity or diabetes. Hence, according to the Spanish Heart Foundation (FEC), people who exercise regularly have a life expectancy three years longer than the rest.
Well, now a new study concludes that regular weight-bearing exercise is associated with a lower risk of death from any cause except cancer.
Plus, making sure your weekly exercise routine includes both weight-bearing and aerobic activities (such as walking, running, swimming, or bicycling) can be even better for a longer life.
The study, published in the “British Journal of Sports Medicine”, is an investigation carried out in older adults.
Current physical activity guidelines for all adults recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week or a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a combination of the two.
All adults are also encouraged to incorporate activities that work all major muscle groups. However, while aerobic exercise is consistently associated with a lower risk of death, it’s unclear whether weight-bearing exercise might have similar effects.
In an attempt to close this knowledge gap, the researchers set out to assess separately and together the potential impact of weight-bearing exercise and aerobic activities on the risk of death among older adults.
They were based on participants from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. It began in 1993 and includes 154,897 men and women ages 55 to 74 from 10 different cancer centers in the United States.In 2006, 104,002 of the participants were further asked if they had exercised with weights in the past year, and if so, how often, from less than once a month to several times a week.
And they were asked about the frequency and duration of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity physical activity in the past year.
Moderate intensity was described as ‘activity in which you broke a light sweat or increased your heart and breathing rate to moderately high levels’ and vigorous activity as ‘activity strenuous enough that you sweat or increased your heart and breathing rate to very high levels’ ‘.
Four activity groups were generated based on the total number of active weekly minutes performed.
In total, responses from 99,713 people were included in the final analysis, 28,477 of whom died during an average of nine and a half years of follow-up. Their mean age at the start of the follow-up period was 71 years, and mean weight (BMI) was 27.8 kg, defined as overweight.
Nearly one in four (23%) of those surveyed reported some weightlifting activity; 16% said they regularly exercised with weights between one and six times a week. Nearly a third (32%) were aerobically active enough, meeting (24%) or exceeding (8%) the guidelines.
Weight-bearing exercise and the combination with aerobic exercise were independently associated with a lower risk of death from any cause, as well as from cardiovascular disease, but not from cancer.
Overall, exercising solely with weights was associated with a 9-22% lower risk of death, depending on the amount: for example, using weights once or twice a week was associated with a 14% lower risk.Similarly, among those who did not exercise with weights, aerobic activity was associated with a 24% to 34% lower risk of death from any cause.
But the lowest risk of death was seen among those who said they did both types of physical activity.
For example, the risk of death was 41% to 47% lower among those who reported meeting the most recommended weekly levels of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise and who exercised with weights once or twice a week than among those who were physically inactive.
Education level, smoking status, BMI, race, and ethnicity did not significantly change the observed associations, but gender did: the associations were stronger in women.
This is an observational study and as such cannot establish cause. However, it notes that weight-bearing exercise also has these benefits.
The study focused only on weights, but there are other types of muscle-strengthening exercises, the researchers say, including push-ups and squats, Pilates, jumping jacks and burpees.
Using weights can make a body leaner: Total lean mass is independently associated with a lower risk of death, the researchers say by way of explanation for their findings.
And if it’s done in a gym, it could also be very social, another factor associated with a longer and healthier life.