If hitting the weights is always on your to-do list but putting in hours at the gym pumping iron seems like a daunting task, you’re in luck! A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that as little as 10 minutes of strength training a day can cut your risk of premature death by as much as 20%.
A team of researchers from Japan looked at 16 studies going back to 2012 from the U.S., England, Scotland, Australia, and Japan. The number of study participants varied widely—from 3,809 in one study to 479,856 in another. Each participant was monitored for at least two years. The data suggested that those who participated in as little as 30 minutes per week or up to 60 minutes per week of lifting had a 10–17% lower risk of death from any cause and a lower risk of death from heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, and lung cancer. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are among the leading non-Covid causes of death in the U.S.
Traditionally, exercise guidelines have recommended strength training as a way to bolster muscle fitness—more stability to joints, a stronger core to avoid back injuries, and more resistance to injuries. However, this study marks the first time strength training has been linked to a decrease in the risk of premature death. The study also showed that there might even be an ideal “dose” of strength training to achieve those results.
“Although several physical activity guidelines (e.g., WHO) recommend that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities including strength training based on the benefit for ‘musculoskeletal’ health benefits, our findings support this recommendation in terms of preventing premature death and major non-communicable diseases,” Dr. Haruki Momma, a professor in the Department of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Tohoku, University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan, told Fatherly. “Meanwhile, our findings suggested that optimal doses of muscle-strengthening activities for the prevention of all causes of death, cardiovascular diseases, and total cancer may exist.”
As for the type of strength training necessary, it’s probably way less intense than you think. Even 10 minutes of heavy-duty gardening per week—activities like digging or shoveling—showed a significant impact.
Researchers also found that when strength training and cardio exercise are combined, the risk of premature death due to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease decreases by 40%.
“The benefit of muscle-strengthening exercises is independent of the influence of aerobic activities,” explained Dr. Momma. “Moreover, joint analysis of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities showed that the reduction in risk of death from any cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer was even greater when these two types of activities were combined: 40%, 46%, and 28% lower, respectively.”
The take-home? If you’re devoted to your treadmill or pay your dues in SoulCycle, that’s great, but you should definitely consider lifting heavy-ish things a few times a week for maximum life-saving effect.
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