Excerpted from the Washington Post, January 29, 2023:
For longevity, muscle strength may be as important as aerobic exercise
In a recent meta-analysis
combining 16 studies and data from over 1.5 million subjects, muscle-strengthening activities were associated with almost a 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, lung cancer and all-cause mortality.
“Strength training confers a host of health benefits independent of aerobic exercise,” said Daniel J. McDonough, a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health and co-author of a large study
that looked at the effect of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise on mortality. Adding some muscle
also improves physical fitness and bone mineral density and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injury.
Also, emerging evidence
shows contracting skeletal muscles produce myokines, which are small strings of amino acids
existing between muscles and the rest of the body that can help regulate various metabolic processes conducive to better cardiometabolic health, McDonough says. German researchers
last spring reported that “by stimulating the skeletal muscle in a certain way, we can make use of this cross talk and improve health.”
Michael Valenzuela is a researcher at the University of New South Wales and one of the leaders of a study that looked at the effect of resistance exercise on cognitive function and brain structure in 100 subjects with mild cognitive impairment. He found that strength training appeared to protect areas of the brain, specifically the hippocampus, normally targeted by Alzheimer’s.
So how much strength training is enough?
Given that walking to the bus or store counts, most people should be able to get in 60 minutes a week of aerobic exercise, McDonough says. And the two sessions of strength training doesn’t have to be at the gym, he adds. They can be with any form of resistance, such as gravity, hand weights, resistance bands, or even water bottles or cans from the cupboard, or hefting grocery bags.