There was a time when weight training was associated with meatheads at Muscle Beach. As such, it was largely shunned in favour of high-intensity aerobics. But as fitness trends have changed and science delved deeper into the effects of physical activity on our bodies, weight training has moved away from its iron-pumping past towards an exercise designed to strengthen and lengthen.
And it isn’t just for the young, either. In a study out of Penn State College of Medicine, researchers found that people over the age of 65 who lifted weights or did other strength training activities had 46 per cent lower odds of all-cause mortality (which refers to any cause of death) than those who did not.
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“Older adults have the ability to achieve strength similar to those decades younger by engaging in simple strength-training routines,” Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Penn State College, said to Refinery29.
The study examined 29,975 U.S. adults for 15 years. Their average age was 74.2. Researchers asked them whether they were:
- Highly active (engaged in more than 300 minutes of high to moderate intensity activity per week).
- Sufficiently active (150 – 300 minutes of light to moderate activity per week).
- Insufficiently active (some activity).
- Inactive (less than 10 minutes of activity per week).
In addition to living longer, weight lifters and resistance trainers showed lower odds of cancer and cardiac deaths.
The Penn State paper notes that these findings complement those of an Australian study that found after 12 months of high-intensity weight lifting exercise, patients recovering from hip fractures had an 81 per cent reduction in mortality. Similarly, a study out of the Mayo Clinic, found that cancer survivors who participated in resistance training more than one day per week had a 33 per cent lower risk of all-cause mortality. In the case of patients who only engaged in aerobic activity, there was no association.
This isn’t meant to vilify or discredit aerobic activity.
“Both work to extend life expectancy and increased benefit is demonstrated by engagement in both,” Kraschnewski said to Global News. “In fact, although many individuals who were weight lifting tended not to be engaged in other activities, nearly 40 per cent of lifters were highly active and 25 per cent were sufficiently active.”
No word on how long they’ll live, but based on this evidence they could be contenders for Guiness World Records.