Working out to sculpt stronger muscles isn't just for show - it could help you live a longer, healthier life, research suggests.
Regular muscle-strengthening activity, from weightlifting to calisthenics, is linked to a 10% to 20% lower risk of dying from serious chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease , and diabetes according to a study published Monday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Researchers from Tohoku University, Kyushu University, and Waseda University in Japan looked at data from 16 studies published from 2012 to 2020 comparing exercise habits with rates of deaths from major illnesses.
Participants who did some type of strengthening exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a week were significantly less likely to die of any cause during the studies, data showed. They also had a lower risk of specific illnesses like heart disease (17% lower risk), cancer (12% lower risk), and diabetes (17% lower risk).
Combining strength training with some type of cardio activity to boost the heart rate was linked to even more reductions in disease risk, researchers found.
The results are supported by previous research showing both types of exercise can boost health and longevity, and they suggest it doesn't take hours in the gym to see the benefits.
Weight training is ideal for building muscle, since it allows you to progressively challenge your muscles to grow bigger and stronger over time. Lifting weights can also be accessible for all skill levels and nearly all ages, experts previously told Insider.
The study, however, found a wide range of activities counted as muscle-building exercise, including bodyweight movements like push-ups and squats as well as resistance band workouts.
Researchers found the apparent disease-prevention benefits of strength training seemed to max out at 30 to 60 minutes a week for most health risks.
For some illnesses, like diabetes, the risk significantly decreased with less than an hour of exercise a week. Beyond an hour, the additional benefit gradually decreased over time.
The results suggest you don't need to be a gym rat to benefit from a consistent exercise routine, and they corroborate previous evidence that as little as two workouts a week could have results for both health and muscle-building.
Previous evidence has found aerobic exercise that raises your heart rate is linked to benefits like more stamina, improved mood, and a healthier heart, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The current study suggests strength training has additional benefits. The researchers found combining strength and cardio training led to more risk reduction than either exercise alone. Study participants who did both types of exercise had up to 46% lower risk of heart disease and 28% lower risk of cancer, data showed.
If you're not a fan of the treadmill or jogging outdoors, you can also get the benefits of cardio without running by changing up your weight routine to include lighter weights, more reps, and less time resting between exercises.
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