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Strength Training May Increase Life Span

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Here’s more motivation for clients to add strength exercises to their fitness programs: New research shows that strength training plays an important role in reducing risk of premature death from all causes and, specifically, from cancer—and when it comes to cancer, strength work may be even more beneficial to health than aerobic training.

Researchers from The University of Sydney conducted a data analysis of 80,306 adults collected over 14 years from the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey. Investigators examined associations between gym-based and body-weight strength training activities and all-cause, cancer and cardiovascular-disease mortality.

Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, lead study author and associate professor at the School of Public Health, said, “The study shows exercise that promotes muscular strength may be just as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling. And, assuming our findings reflect cause and effect relationships, it may be even more vital when it comes to reducing risk of death from cancer.”

Among the findings: People who did strength exercise reduced their risk of premature death from any cause by 23% and their risk of cancer—related death by 31%. Those who met physical activity guidelines for both cardiovascular and resistance training had greater risk reduction than those who did only cardiovascular training. Strength training alone, however, did not reduce mortality risk for cardiovascular disease.

Regarding risk reduction, an important insight from the analysis is that body-weight exercises were just as effective as gym-based training. “When people think of strength training, they instantly think of doing weights in a gym, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” said Stamatakis. “Many people are intimidated by gyms, the cost or the culture they promote, so it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, situps, pushups or lunges in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits.”

The study is available in the American Journal of Epidemiology (2017: doi:10.1093/aje/kwx345).

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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