Strength training, often associated with bodybuilders and athletes, is a type of physical exercise that is designed to improve muscle strength and endurance. It involves the use of weights or resistance bands to stress the muscles, causing them to contract and gradually increase in size and power. However, the benefits of strength training extend far beyond increasing muscle mass and enhancing physical appearance.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that strength training can not only improve your quality of life but also extend it. In other words, building muscle through strength training can help you live longer.
The Relationship Between Muscle Mass and Longevity
Muscle loss is a natural part of aging. After the age of 30, most people begin to lose about 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade, a condition known as “sarcopenia”. Left untreated, sarcopenia can lead to frailty and an increased risk of falls and fractures, which can significantly impact your independence and quality of life.
There is a strong correlation between muscle mass and longevity. According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, individuals who have more muscle mass have a lower risk of death. This study analyzed data from more than 3,600 older adults and found that those with greater amounts of muscle had a significantly lower risk of dying, even after controlling for other factors such as body fat and cardiovascular disease.
How Strength Training Promotes Longevity
Strength training does far more than just build and maintain muscle mass. It also improves overall health and wellness in many ways that can potentially increase your lifespan.
Improve Bone Health
Strength training is beneficial for your bones as well as your muscles. When you perform resistance exercises, your muscles pull on your bones, which stimulates the growth of new bone tissue. This helps increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle.
Prevent Chronic Diseases
Strength training can help prevent and manage chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and depression. It can improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, and inflammation. By reducing your risk of these diseases, strength training can contribute to a healthier and potentially longer life.
Support Mental Health
Physical activity, including strength training, has been proven to be an effective method for relieving stress and reducing symptoms of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators, which can improve your mood and provide a sense of well-being.
Enhance Cognitive Function
Stay sharp as you age by incorporating strength training into your fitness routine. According to a study, strength training promotes cognitive function by increasing the production of growth factors – chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Guidelines for Effective Strength Training
To maximize the longevity benefits of strength training, it’s important to follow proven guidelines and recommendations.
If you are new to strength training, start slowly with light weights and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts as your strength and endurance improve.
Use Proper Technique
Incorrect form can lead to injury, so it’s important to learn and use proper lifting technique. Consider working with a personal trainer or fitness professional, especially when starting out.
Consistency is key in strength training. At the minimum, aim to do strength training workouts two to three times per week.
Target All Major Muscle Groups
Balanced muscle strength is important for maintaining good posture and preventing injuries. Make sure your strength training routine includes exercises for the upper body, lower body, and core.
Thanks to scientific research, we no longer have to associate strength training solely with bodybuilders and athletes. It plays an imperative role in promoting longevity and preventing age-related diseases and conditions as well. Done correctly and consistently, strength training can indeed help build muscle, enhance overall health, and contribute to a longer lifespan.
At the end of the day, however, it’s still important to remember that strength training alone doesn’t fully guarantee a longer and healthier life – a well-rounded approach to health and wellness that includes a balanced diet, proper sleep, regular check-ups, and mental health care is crucial. Nevertheless, the research is clear – building muscle through strength training definitely contributes to one’s longevity.