Strength exercise is just as vital as aerobics

Push-ups and sit ups could add years to your life according to a study of over a large population led by the University of Sydney.  The research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiologytoday, is based on a pooled population sample of over 80,306 adults with data drawn from the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey, linked with the NHS Central Mortality Register.

This largest study to compare the mortality outcomes of different types of exercise found that exercise promoting muscular strength may be just as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling.  The data shows that people who did strength-based exercise had a 23 percent reduction in risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 percent reduction in cancer-related death.

The World Health Organization’s Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity, plus two days of muscle strengthening activities each week.  However, the popular message on exercise has been focusing on “get moving.”  This study prompts expanding the kinds of exercise to beyond traditional aerobic activities for long-term health and wellbeing.

The analysis also showed that exercises performed using one’s own body weight — such as triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges — without specific equipment were just as effective as gym-based training.   The take home message is that everyone can do classic exercises in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits as working out in a gym.

The key findings from the study are:

  • participation in any strength-promoting exercise was associated with a 23 percent reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31 percent reduction in cancer mortality.
  • own bodyweight exercises that can be performed in any setting without equipment yielded comparable results to gym-based activities.
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise guideline alone was associated with reduced risk of cancer-related death, but adherence to the WHO’s aerobic physical activity guideline alone was not.
  • adherence to WHO’s strength-promoting exercise and aerobic guidelines combined was associated with a greater risk reduction in mortality than aerobic physical activity alone.

Happy exercising.

Journal Reference: Emmanuel Stamatakis, I-Min Lee, Jason Bennie, Jonathan Freeston, Mark Hamer, Gary O’Donovan, Ding Ding, Adrian Bauman, Yorgi Mavros. Does strength promoting exercise confer unique health benefits? A pooled analysis of eleven population cohorts with all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality endpointsAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwx345

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