Can Pumping Iron Extend Your Life?

Healthy Aging, Senior Care Leave a comment , , , ,

Elderly CareSeveral recent studies point to the same conclusion: Weight training can help you live longer.

Maybe you were a weightlifter, way back when. Or you used to do pushups and sit-ups … but that was a long time ago. Now, you keep fit with a daily walk or bike ride. That’s enough, right?

Fitness professionals and health workers know that whether you’re in your teens or 80 years old, strength exercises are crucial. They help build muscle and bone mass, and research has found that they not only help you live better, but longer.

Strength Training is Essential

“Strength training isn’t necessarily the first thing that pops into people’s mind when they think about activities they should be doing when they’re older,” says Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, an associate professor of medicine, pediatrics and public health sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine. “But the truth is that very good evidence [is available] to show that 80-year-olds are just as able to improve their muscle mass as 50-year-olds. And this can be done reliably over a very short period of time – something as short as two to three months.”

Kraschnewski led a large study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, that followed more than 30,000 adults aged 65 and up. Data from a National Health Interview survey found a little less than 10 percent met the standard of at least two sessions of strength training per week, whether it was from lifting weights, using machines in the gym or performing calisthenics. Over a period of 15 years, participants who reported meeting the guidelines had a 46 percent lower chance of dying from any cause, including cardiovascular disease and cancer, than the rest of the group.

Other research supports the findings. Strength training is correlated with a reduced risk of death for groups ranging from those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to women, according to studies published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Short Sessions Get the Job Done

So, how much time are we looking at here?   “Typically, two to three exercise sessions a week for 20 to 30 minutes are enough for most people to develop results,” said Kraschnewski. “Our studies have demonstrated older adults can double their strength in just 12 weeks.”

That’s what you wanted to hear! It’s always a good idea to have a chat with your doctor before you start exercising, by the way, but we’re not talking about marathon sessions to get results. You don’t have to use weights, either.

You’ve Got Options

“In general, there are safe exercises for everyone, but it may require tailoring for your specific conditions,” Kraschnewski said. “Strength training can be done at home and many exercises don’t actually require equipment.”

The main thing is to get started. “Older adults have the ability to achieve strength similar to those decades younger by engaging in simple strength training routines,” Kraschnewski said.

Remember that you can’t keep lifting the same weight and expect to get stronger. The goal is to gradually move up to heavier weights and add repetitions, varying your workout.

Combined with regular aerobic exercise, strength training can help you live a longer, fuller life that is active to the end.


Source:  CSA Blog, October 18, 2018:

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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