We wanted to know if weightlifting alone—or in combination with aerobic exercise—influences one’s risk of early death,” says Jess Gorzelitz, assistant professor of health and human physiology at the University of Iowa, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
“So we asked a group of roughly 100,000 older adults about their lifestyle, and then we followed them for about 10 years.” Those who hit the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic activity—150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week—were nearly a third less likely to die over those 10 years. That’s no surprise, since aerobic activity improves cardiovascular fitness and is linked to a lower risk of several cancers.
“But we also found that weightlifting, independent of aerobic activity, was linked to a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of dying,” says Gorzelitz.
Want the most bang for your buck? Get your heart and your muscles pumping.
Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, “exercise” means walking, jogging, treadmill work, or other activities that get the heart pumping.
But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50’s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.
The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. “Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate,” says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional.”