To Live Longer, Get Stronger
October 2, 2008—Most of us have heard about the importance of staying physically fit to optimize health and prevent disease. Now research suggests that building muscles may be equally important. A new study found that higher levels of muscular strength are associated with a decreased risk of death from all causes and from cancer in men.
In this study, published in the British Medical Journal, 8,762 men 20 to 80 years old were assessed for upper and lower body strength using resistance weight machines. Cardiorespiratory fitness was also measured with a treadmill test. After nearly 19 years of follow-up 503 of the men died. Men who were still alive at the end of that time period had significantly higher baseline muscular strength compared with the men who had died. The death rate was greater for those men in the lowest third of muscle strength compared with those in the middle- and upper-thirds of muscular strength.
“Muscular strength seems to add to the protective effect of cardiorespiratory fitness against the risk of death in men,” said lead author Jonatan Ruiz from the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at NOVUM, Huddinge, Sweden, and his colleagues. The authors warn of generalizing the study’s results to other populations, as all participants were well-educated white men of middle- to upper-socioeconomic status.
Add strength training to exercise regimen
Exercising to improve muscle strength is an important part of any physical activity regimen. The study’s authors promote regular resistance training that involves all of the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body and recommend a person do this two or three days a week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends incorporating strength training into an exercise regimen two days a week. The CDC recommends completing six to eight strength training exercises with 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise.
People starting a new exercise routine should check with their doctor first. This is particularly true for those who have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Strength training can involve various activities, such as circuit training and lifting weights. A person who has never lifted weights should seek guidance from a personal trainer or fitness expert at a community recreation center.
(BMJ 2008;337:a439; Centers for Disease Control:www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/everyone/recommendations/index.htm)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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