Do you even lift? You should, because it can prevent premature death - study

The findings were based on the self-reports and health data of nearly 100,000 men and women.

lifting weights at the gym  (photo credit: Courtesy)
lifting weights at the gym
(photo credit: Courtesy)

On their own, aerobic exercises and weight training have significant health benefits, but combining them could have even greater impact when it comes to disease prevention and premature death risk, according to a new study. 

People who lifted weights once or twice per week, as well as the recommended amount of aerobic activities, had up to a 47% lower risk of dying early, according to peer-reviewed research published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The findings were based on the self-reports and health data of nearly 100,000 men and women aged 55-74 who participated in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which began in 1993.
In 2006, many of the participants were asked additional questions — whether they had exercised with weights over the past year, and if so, how often they had done so — anything from less than once a month to several times a week.

They were also asked about the frequency and duration of both moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity over the past year. 

Older adults who did weight training without any aerobic activity reduced their risk of early death from any cause by up to 22%, a percentage that depended on the number of times they lifted weights within a week – using weights once or twice weekly was associated with a 14% lower risk, and the benefit increased the more frequent someone lifted weights.
Those who did aerobic exercise lowered their risk by up to 34%, compared with participants who didn’t do any weight training or aerobic exercise. But the lowest risk – 41% to 47% – was among those who met recommended weekly amounts of aerobic activity as well as lifted weights once or twice per week, compared with those who weren’t active. 
 Israelis exercis at an outdoor gym by the beach on a hot summer day, in Tel Aviv, on July 28, 2020 (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90) Israelis exercis at an outdoor gym by the beach on a hot summer day, in Tel Aviv, on July 28, 2020 (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Lifting weights does not impact cancer mortality rate

Notably, however, the authors didn’t find a lower risk for death from cancer.

Participants’ education, smoking status, body mass index, race and ethnicity didn’t impact the findings, but gender did – the associations were more consequential among women, the researchers found.
Additionally, researchers noted, if done in a gym, lifting weights can be a sociable activity—another factor associated with longer, healthier life.
“Our finding that mortality risk appeared to be lowest for those who participated in both types of exercise provides strong support for current recommendations to engage in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities,” the research team concluded. “Older adults would probably benefit from adding weightlifting exercises to their physical activity routines.”