Strength Training Key to Better Health

Adults are frequently reminded of the 150-minute weekly guideline for moderate physical activity to lower the risk for chronic health conditions and support brain health, weight management, and bone and muscle strength.  But newer research also stresses the importance of regular strength training for health and longevity.  

According to a recent Washington Post Well + Being report, a recent meta-analysis using 16 studies and data from more than 1.5 million participants, muscle-strengthening exercises were linked with a 20 percent reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, lung cancer and all-cause mortality. 

Adding muscle, which adults begin losing in their 30s and 40s, was also found to improve physical fitness and bone mineral density, reducing the risk of injury.  Falls and injuries, like a broken hip, are leading causes of hospitalization among older adults which often lead to a loss of mobility and independent living. 

Strength training was also found by researchers to improve the body’s response to insulin, contributing to better control of blood sugar following meals and a reduced risk of insulin resistance or diabetes – conditions that can harm the heart and cardiovascular system.  Stimulating muscles with strength training may also improve cardiometabolic health through the production of myokines – small strings of amino acids that exist between muscles and the rest of the body.  New evidence suggests this “cross-talk” could improve health by helping to regulate various metabolic processes. 

Strength training may also play an important role in protecting cognitive health in older age.  A 2022 study published in the JAMA Network Open, based on the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, found that a low muscle mass in adults over age 65 was associated with a faster decline in cognitive function.  Researchers suggest that a greater muscle mass may result in more regular physical activity and increased blood flow to the brain. 

The Takeaway

In addition to regular aerobic exercises like walking or cycling, introducing strength training once or twice a week can significantly reduce the risk of death by all causes.  Body weight or other resistance training – evening using household items like water bottles can improve muscle strength and reduce the risk for chronic illnesses.   Always talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise program and begin slowly, gradually increasing intensity and duration over time to avoid injury.  

Visit YouTube to watch a series of National Institute on Aging strength training videos.