Strength-Building Exercises Decrease Risk for All Causes of Disease
From birth to approximately 30, your muscles are growing in strength and size with little effort from you. However, once you’re in your 30s you begin to experience sarcopenia, the natural loss of muscle mass and function.1 With inactivity you can lose as much as 5 percent of your muscle mass each decade after 30. This loss may speed up as you reach 65.
Only 23 percent of people over the age of 45 report meeting strength training recommendations.2 However, strength exercises are the most important type of exercise you need to stay strong and healthy as you age. Gaining and maintaining muscle strength is just one of the benefits. This form of exercise may help prevent osteoporosis, improve your balance and control, prevent injuries and improve your ability to perform day-to-day movements.
Strength exercises are an integral part of a well-rounded exercise program and are important for every age group, from children to seniors. Unfortunately, many ignore this aspect of exercise as they may believe a gym is required, or that strength training will create bulk. Intensity, not higher weights, can achieve beneficial changes on a molecular, chemical and hormonal level in your body that may help slow or prevent many of the diseases triggered by a sedentary lifestyle.
In fact, research has confirmed that exercise is one of the best preventive strategies you may use3 against many common diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.4 Recent research now demonstrates that strength training is vital to your longevity and could add years to your life.5
Strength Exercises May Reduce Risk of All-Cause Mortality
In one of the largest studies to compare mortality outcomes using different types of exercise, researchers discovered those who incorporated strength training in their routine experienced a 23 percent reduction in premature death from any cause and a 31 percent reduction in cancer related death.6 Researchers from the University of Sydney studied over 80,000 adults and found that promoting muscular strength may be as important as aerobic activities.
Some find strength-based exercises more intimidating or less attractive as they seem more demanding or boring. Aerobic exercise has also been the focus of many studies, demonstrating they improve executive functioning7 and cardiovascular fitness,8 improving your endurance and stamina throughout the day. However, this featured study suggests strength exercises may reduce the risk of all-cause and cancer related deaths.9
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Physical Activity Guidelines for adults 18 to 64 recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity with at least two days of strength-based exercises each week.10 Lead author Emmanuel Stamatakis, Ph.D., believes public health authorities have neglected to stress the importance of strength exercises and misrepresented how active Australian citizens were as a nation.11
Stamatakis cites the Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey as an example of the increased risk of disease from lack of activity Australians suffer.12 The report finds 53 percent of Australians are inactive. However, when strength-based exercise is factored into the evaluation, 85 percent of Australians fail to meet the WHO recommendations.
Stamatakis says,13 “Our message to date has just been to get moving but this study prompts a rethink about, when appropriate, expanding the kinds of exercise we are encouraging for long-term health and well-being.” Researchers also found that simple body weight exercises that may be performed at home or in any setting, were as beneficial to your health as those done at the gym using weight equipment.
This means that simple exercises you do at home with your own body weight are all you need to enjoy the benefits of a strength-based program. Interestingly, the researchers also found that adhering strictly to WHO’s strength promoting guidelines was associated with a reduction in cancer related deaths, while adhering only to cardiovascular guidelines were not. However, engaging in both cardiovascular and strength-based exercises yielded the best results.14
Cardiovascular Workouts Benefit From Simple Strength Exercises
Strength-based exercises may also help improve your athletic performance and cardiovascular workouts. Whether you enjoy jogging, rowing, biking, hiking, climbing or any other of a number of cardiovascular pursuits, building a strong strength-based foundation may help to improve your performance and reduce your risks of injury.
Endurance athletes have found the integration of resistance training helps improve their overall performance better than classic plans that focus only on aerobic endurance training.15 However, you don’t have to be an endurance athlete to enjoy the benefits to your personal program. In a study of elderly men and women, researchers found simple bicep curls and leg presses improved aerobic capacity in older adults.16
Strength training also has the added benefits of stabilizing your core muscles, those muscles around your abdomen and back, that provide balance and stability to your pelvis and lower back and help the muscles in your hips, abdomen and lower back to work in harmony. This helps prevent injury to your lower back and improves your overall balance, reducing the risk of falls, especially in older adults.17
Balance and coordination also helps improve posture and body mechanics.18 Poor posture may lead to upper back pain and an increased risk of falls. Strength training may also reduce your risk of osteoporosis and minimize the risk of fracture.19 An estimated 8 million women and 3 million men suffer with osteoporosis, responsible for more than 2 million fractures each year. The one-year mortality rate after a hip fracture may be up to 58 percent.20
Strength training also has psychological benefits, reducing the risk of depression21 and elevating your mood and self-esteem.22 Men and women enjoy the benefits of an improved body image and self-perception from toned muscles.
Resistance training also improves sleep quality23 necessary to repair your muscles after a good workout, as well as improving your overall health. Lack of sleep has been associated with high blood pressure, slowed reaction time, poor blood sugar control, decreased immune function and reduced memory or ability to learn.