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TUESDAY, March 1, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Adding regular strength training to your exercise routine may not only make you stronger, it may also help you live longer, researchers in Japan report.

Their new study claims that 30 to 60 minutes per week of muscle strengthening could reduce your risk of dying prematurely from any cause, and from heart and blood vessel disease, diabetes or cancer by up to 20 percent.

“Doing muscle-strengthening activities has a health benefit independent of aerobic activities,” said lead researcher Haruki Momma, a professor of medicine and exercise and sport sciences at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, in Sendai.

Strengthening exercises include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing push-ups, sit-ups, and squats. It can also include heavy yard work, such as digging and shoveling, the researchers said.

“Although several physical activity guidelines recommend that adults engage in muscle-strengthening activities based on musculoskeletal health benefits, our findings support these recommendations in terms of preventing premature death and major chronic disease,” Momma said. “In addition, our findings suggest that optimal doses of muscle-strengthening activities may exist for the prevention of death from all causes, from cardiovascular causes, and from cancer.”

For the study, Momma and her colleagues pooled data from 16 published studies. The size of the studies, which included both men and women, ranged from almost 4,000 to almost 480,000 participants.

The analysis found that muscle strengthening was linked to a 10 percent to 17 percent lower risk of premature death from any cause, plus heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer lung and cancer in general.

They found no link between muscle strengthening and any reduction in the risk of colon, kidney, bladder or pancreatic cancer.

The greatest benefit was seen when strength training was performed for up to one hour per week.

But more was not necessarily better. After 60 minutes of strengthening exercise per week, no additional benefit in preventing premature death was seen.

Even better than strength training alone was combining it with aerobic exercise. (Aerobic exercise includes swimming, cycling, walking, and rowing.)

The combination reduced the risk of dying prematurely from any cause by 40 percent, heart and blood vessel disease by 46 percent, and cancer by 28 percent, the researchers found.

The results were published in the February 28 online edition of the journal British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Dr. Russell Camhi, a sports medicine specialist at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y., reviewed the new study.

“There is good evidence that people should incorporate strength training as part of their exercise regimen,” Camhi said.

In men, strength training increases testosterone. In both men and women, it helps maintain bone density and reduces the risk of falls and fractures, he said.

“Strength training has also been shown to help mental health and mood,” Camhi said. “Activating the muscular system has many benefits.”

Camhi recommends starting with weight-bearing exercises and gradually working your way up to using free weights and other equipment. Weight-bearing exercises include walking, dancing, and stair climbing.

“Start with simple weight-bearing exercises, and then start adding small weights as you tolerate them,” Camhi advised.

“You shouldn’t start strength training too early, because it can lead to overuse, and sometimes injury, if not done correctly,” he added.

Camhi noted that it’s easy to find videos and other instructional materials online, and you can also get started with classes and personal trainers.

It’s never too late to start a strength-training regimen, he said.

“There are always benefits to be gained. We can’t always reverse all the losses from chronic disease, but there is always a benefit to be gained from exercise,” Camhi said.

More information

Learn more about the benefits of exercise from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Article by HealthDay, translated by

SOURCES: Haruki Momma, PhD, lecturer, Department of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Sendai, Japan; Russell Camhi, DO, sports medicine specialist, Northwell Health, Great Neck, NY; British Journal of Sports MedicineFeb. 28, 2022, online

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