Weights over cardio for longevity: New study finds pumping iron at least twice a week reduces cancer risk — doing both increases life expectancy by 30%

Strength training may improve longevity and significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer, according to a study published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology. According to the researchers, this is because strength training exercises — which include weight lifting, push-ups, and squats — are more strenuous and demanding compared with the seemingly more attractive aerobic activities such as running, swimming, or cycling.

A team of researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia pooled data from the Health Survey for England, Scottish Health Survey, and the NHS Central Mortality Register as part of the study. The study enrolled up to 80,306 adults aged 30 years and older. The findings revealed that participants who engaged in strength training activities were up to 23 percent less likely to die of all causes. Likewise, volunteers who underwent strength training had a 31 percent reduced risk of cancer-related death.

“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,” lead author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis told Daily Mail online.

The research team did not find a causal relationship between strength training and mortality. However, the scientists stressed that their results have enough credentials to encourage people to undergo strength training exercises. (Related: Exercise works by stimulating NERVES, not just muscles, study finds.)


“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. When people think of strength training they instantly think of doing weights in a gym, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs or the culture they promote, so it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits,” the lead author adds in a Medical News Today report.

Other benefits of strength training

Strength training not only staves off both all-cause and cancer-related mortality, but also offers a wide array of additional health benefits. An entry published on the American Cancer Society (ACS) website enumerates the many advantages of following two or three 20- or 30-minute strength training sessions per week. These benefits include:

  • Improved weight control – According to the ACS entry, strength training helps the body burn more calories more easily. The increase in muscle gain helps facilitate weight control, the article notes.
  • Greater muscle mass – Strength training activities may help prevent and even reverse the natural, age-related decline in muscle mass.
  • Increased bone density – The ACS article also stresses that strength training boosts bone density and lowers the odds of suffering from fractures.
  • Enhanced joint flexibility – Aside from fortifying the bones, strength training may also help maintain joint flexibility and keep arthritis at bay.
  • Better balance – The entry also notes that strength training may help improve flexibility and balance, especially in the aging population. This slashes the risk of falls and injuries, the article states.

The article has also listed a few important pointers to maximize the beneficial effects of strength training. These tips include:

  • Consult a fitness experts in order to carry out the activities correctly.
  • Begin the exercises slowly and then gradually increase the weights or load when the activities become easier.
  • Undergo strength training sessions at least twice a week.
  • People may do the exercise between eight to 12 repetitions.
  • Feeling muscle exhaustion is a usual marker that the exercise is being done in a correct manner.

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