Want to Live Longer? Build Muscle

Couple holding shaker bottles

Turns out, there may be a fountain of youth after all. But it’s not water. It's iron.

A 2021 study recently released by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that strength-training may lower your risk of death — a lot. Just 30 minutes to one hour of strength-training per week can reduce your mortality risk by up to 20 percent, according to the study. And that’s just the beginning of the health benefits that research finds.The recent study found that muscle-building exercises reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, and it reduces your chance of developing diabetes. Strength-training helps preserve your skeletal muscle mass, which plays a role in glucose metabolism. Glucose metabolism essentially feeds your cells, supplying energy and nourishment to them. It’s kind of a big deal in that it’s the basis for life.

Strength-training isn’t just limited to slinging iron, though. It also includes bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and sit-ups, and exercises with specialized equipment, like resistance bands. While ultimately, the recent research does have its limitations, so more analysis is needed, similar findings have been echoed in other studies. One study published on ScienceDirect found strength-training was “significantly” associated with decreased overall mortality in older adults. Specifically, they had lower odds of cancer and cardiac death than less-active adults. Another study published in the National Library of Medicine concluded that resistance training was associated with lower mortality and was especially beneficial when combined with aerobic exercise.


Other health benefits of strength-training

Beyond reducing your mortality risk factors, Medical News Today reports strength-training reduces the risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis among the older population. A study titled “Resistance Training is Medicine” found that resistance training may increase resting metabolic rate, reduce fat, improve cognitive abilities, reduce resting blood pressure, reduce lower back pain, ease pain from arthritis and fibromyalgia and more. The list goes on.

Exercise is also beneficial for your mental health and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and improve cognitive function and self-esteem. HarvardMedical School found the same thing a few years ago: People who did weight training two or more days a week saw“significant” reductions in their symptoms of depression. Untreated depression can lead to suicidal attempts and thoughts.The results are clear: Picking up heavy circles and putting them back down is important for your physical and mental health.


So, how much do you need to lift, bro?

Exactly how much you need to work out to see health benefits varies slightly by experts. Whereas the recent study in the British Journal recommends strength-training once a week, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends two days per week. It also recommends 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-level aerobic activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous aerobic activity per week. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the Mayo Clinic echo that. They both recommend muscle-building exercises at least twice per week. Of course, that amount may be higher if you have specific health and fitness goals, the Mayo Clinic says. But ultimately, just get up and get moving. Even small amounts of activity add up, says the clinic.

Work on building strength and cardio health, and your body will keep working with you — for you. Exercise is a fun (and evidence-based) way to add more days to the calendar of your life.