Regular weight-bearing exercise is associated with a lower risk of premature death, according to the largest study.
Adults are urged to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.
They are also encouraged to do “strengthening exercises” that work on the legs, hips, back, stomach, chest, shoulders and arms at least two days a week.
Although aerobic exercise has been associated with a lower risk of premature death, it is not yet clear whether working out with weights can have the same effect.
To plug this knowledge gap, the researchers plan to evaluate the effects of weight gain and aerobic activity on the risk of premature death in older adults.
The researchers, led by scientists at the US National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, examined data from nearly 100,000 adults in a US screening study.
Participants, who had an average age of 71 years, provided information about their weight lifting activities and any other physical activity they participated in.
About 23% reported weight lifting activity and 16% weight lifting at least one to six times per week.
Researchers estimated that one-third (32%) were “active enough,” with 24% meeting aerobic activity guidelines and 8% exceeding it.
During the 9.6-year follow-up period, 28,477 people died.
The study found that adults who lifted weights had a 9% reduction in “all-cause mortality risk.” A similar observation was made for heart disease mortality, but no association was found between weight training and cancer mortality.
Those who participated in “regular” weight lifting were found to have a 14% lower risk of death. People who met aerobic activity levels had a 32 percent lower risk of dying prematurely.
Adults who met aerobic activity guidelines and reported lifting weights at least once or twice per week were found to be 41% to 47% less likely to die prematurely.
Although the study focused only on weights, the researchers also found other muscle-strengthening exercises such as push-ups, squats, Pilates, tuck jumps and burpees.
Using weight makes the body leaner: Overall leaner weight is independently associated with a lower risk of premature death, the researchers explained. And if it’s done in the gym, it can also be very friendly — another factor associated with a longer, healthier life.
“Our finding that the risk of death appeared to be lower for those who participated in both physical activities provides strong support for current recommendations to engage in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities,” the authors wrote. “Elderly adults may benefit from adding weight training to their physical activity routine,” they concluded.