Strength training for 30 minutes a week can help one live longer: Study

A new study suggests regular strength training routine can help add years to your life. Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it states that people who did 30 to 60 minutes of resistance, or strength, or weight training had a 10 to 20 per cent lower risk of early death from all causes.

For the unversed, strength or resistance training is often associated with lifting of weights that help improve endurance and strength, but it can also include bodyweight exercises or calisthenics, isometrics, and plyometrics.

The researchers in the study stated that people who regularly did weight training also had a lower risk of developing heart disease (46 per cent) or cancer (28 per cent). The study also noted people who did up to 60 minutes a week of muscle-strengthening activities had a lowered risk of developing diabetes.

Even a study by National Institute on Ageing (NIA) and Harvard Medical School stated that women averaging 62.6 years, who did any type of regular strength training, achieved a 30 per cent reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Their risk of developing cardiovascular disease dropped by 17 per cent too.

If you have just started muscle building, start easy. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

According to World Health Organization, 150 minutes of moderate physical activity is needed for every individual. Moderate exercises reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. “It helps you breathe easier and stay healthy longer especially considering the fact that most cardiovascular-related lifestyle disorders could decrease life expectancy,” Dr Viral Kothari, MD, Physician, Jain Multispecialty Hospital explained.

Can just walking help?

One should be doing at least 30 minutes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) which should start with specific floor exercises and bodyweight training. This means a good exercise routine has three main components — endurance training, resistance training, and flexibility. And walking falls short on all three aspects, informed Dr Manjunath Sukumaran, holistic health coach, chief facilitator, and founder of Harmony Wellness Concepts, in a previous interview with this portal.

For some time now, Dr Sukumaran has been advocating for a switch to an effective three-component exercise regimen to alleviate lifestyle ailments like blood pressure, diabetes or weight gain through his Facebook videos. According to him, if there is “not any serious restriction”, one should look at other forms of cardio activity rather than walking which is “not a whole, complete exercise”.

Why is strength training essential?

Dr Aashish Contractor, director: rehabilitation and sports medicine, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital stated that as one ages, muscle mass is lost, so strength training becomes “vitally important to help carry out activities of daily living, as well, and hence must be part of everyone’s exercise program”.

Strength training is one of the best ways to improve strength in areas such as the core, legs, lower back and upper body.

Strength training speeds up the metabolic rate, which aids faster absorption of nutrients. More importantly, strength training helps in burning calories not only during the workout but also while the body is at rest. “The reason is muscles need more energy to sustain as well as repair after strength training. Therefore, strength training is an effective way to achieve fat loss, said Jitendra Chouksey, Founder of FITTR.

With resistance training, one can achieve all the health benefits considering the workout and diet programs are designed as per the specific need, said Rachit Dua, a senior fitness consultant at Team Aminder, an online fitness training platform, and a co-founder of FitPathshala, an online fitness academy.

How does it help one live longer?

Dua is of the opinion that since it helps enhance the oxygenated blood supply throughout the body and allows the internal organs to function optimally, it could be one of the reasons for the observation (live longer). “When we do resistance training, the muscle tissues go through lengthening and contracting effect which improves the flexibility aspect. Slight intense movement takes your heart rate on higher side covering the cardio respiratory parameter, the muscle gain allows you to enjoy ideal body composition along with some strength gain. Improvement in bone density also comes as by-product of resistance training. More the muscle mass a person carries, better becomes the glucose storage capacity of body and the overall metabolism also improves. Higher repetitions training programs improve muscular endurance component of the fitness,” he said.

How much to do?

The good news, as amplified by this study, is that you do not need to spend hours in the gym, to get this benefit. In fact, research has shown that 2-3 strength training sessions, a week is adequate to get these benefits, said Dr Contractor. “Each of these sessions can be as little as 15 minutes. It’s important to do one set of 10-15 reps of the large muscle groups for your upper and lower body, such as your chest, back, arm and leg muscles. These can also be done at home, using your body weight as resistance, such as push-ups and squats, or very basic home equipment. For greater benefit, a larger volume of training will certainly help, but is not necessary,” he said.

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