The findings of a recent systematic review and meta-analysis, which analyzed data from 38 studies involving 1,907,580 participants—yes, nearly 2 MILLION people—are perhaps the most impressive. "Higher levels of upper-and lower-body muscular strength are associated with a lower risk of mortality in the adult population, regardless of age or follow-up period," the researchers discovered.
We're talking about a 30% reduction in overall mortality risk. And, believe it or not, women with higher levels of muscular strength had a 40% lower overall mortality rate.
I realize I'm bombarding you with numbers.
Listen to what Dr. Keith Baar, Professor at the UC-Davis School of Medicine's Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology, had to say in an interview with Dan Pardi on humanOS radio:
"The big thing we know is that if you're in the strongest third of the population at midlife, you're two-and-a-half times more likely to live to be a hundred, and that's if you're in the strongest third of the population at midlife. If you're in your 50s and one of the strongest 50-year-olds, you're twice as likely to live to be 100. In humans, muscle mass and strength appear to be the most important predictors of longevity because the stronger you are, the more likely you are to survive certain diseases. "
But here's the thing: Muscular strength doesn't just make you live longer. Having strong, healthy muscles extends one's life.
What is the definition of health span? That is an excellent question.
Health span is defined by researchers as "the period of life free of major chronic clinical diseases and disability." It is based on the premise that life can be divided roughly into two phases: a period of relatively healthy aging (health span) and a period of age-related disease and disability.
Another way to think about health span is optimal longevity, which means living a long time with a strong desire to live well. In other words, increasing health span is about more than just living longer. It is about living a longer life. This is a critical distinction to make. Despite the fact that medical advances have resulted in an increased average lifespan, many argue that this is due to people living longer with age-and lifestyle-related diseases and disabilities, rather than an increase in health span.
10 Ways Strong, Healthy Muscles Help You Live Longer
How does muscular strength improve health and prolong life? To find an answer, consider the health-related benefits of resistance training—the most effective tool for increasing muscular strength.
I have a feeling you'll be surprised to learn that lifting weights does more than just increase strength and muscle mass—two benefits it can significantly and consistently improve. And I hope you'll see that lifting weights isn't just for athletes, bodybuilders, and the like.
Let me state unequivocally: resistance training is essential for EVERYONE. Here are ten ways it can help you live a longer, healthier, and more optimal life.
1) Strength, power, endurance, quality, and mass are all improved by resistance training.
Isn't that obvious? Although it should go without saying, the health benefits of maintaining (and increasing) muscle strength, power, and mass over time can not be overstated (see below). Healthy levels of these variables protect you from physical disability, falls, and even death. They are, of course, inextricably linked to physical performance and functional capacity.
2) Resistance training aids in the reduction of body fat and visceral (belly) fat.
Lifting weights may not result in "weight loss" on the scale (i.e., a net reduction in body mass), but it can radically change the shape of your body—how you look and feel, and how your clothes fit—by helping you reduce body fat while increasing lean muscle. Most importantly, resistance training aids in the reduction of belly fat, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome as well as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
3) Resistance training aids in the maintenance (or even increase) of resting metabolic rate and the prevention of age-related fat gain.
An age-related decline in metabolic rate—which, ironically, coincides with an age-related decline in muscle—plays a significant role in age-related fat gain, which contributes to a lower quality of life and health span. (Note that in all of these cases, "age-related" could be replaced with "lifestyle-related.") Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. It accounts for up to 50% of the total calories burned per day. A 2.2-pound increase in muscle mass should increase the resting metabolic rate by more than 20 calories per day.
4) Resistance training aids in the reduction of fasting insulin levels, the improvement of insulin sensitivity, and the reduction of the insulin response to carbohydrates.
For starters, the muscle is the primary site in the body where glucose is used and stored (carbohydrate). Furthermore, muscle contraction increases glucose uptake and improves insulin sensitivity, both of which contribute to glycemic balance and control. It's no surprise that the American Diabetes Association advises all adults to engage in regular resistance training.
5) Resistance training can help raise HDL levels, lower triglycerides, and lower blood pressure.
Low HDL, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure (along with an increase in waist circumference and fasting blood glucose) all contribute to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Muscle strength has been found to be inversely related to metabolic syndrome, and resistance training has been shown to improve HDL, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
6) Resistance training has been shown to increase bone mineral density (BMD).
Lifting weights has been shown in long-term studies to significantly increase bone mass in men and women of all ages. As people get older, BMD becomes a major concern, particularly among women, because it is intricately linked to osteoporosis and the risk of broken bones.
7) Resistance training has been shown to improve mood.
That's right, the advantages of resistance training extend beyond having strong, healthy muscles. Resistance training significantly reduced depressive symptoms in adults, according to a recent systematic review and meta-analysis involving 33 clinical trials and 1,877 participants.
8) Resistance training has been shown to improve cognitive function.
Lifting weights promotes a healthy brain, not just a healthy body, and new research shows that resistance training can improve cognitive function and the quality of life in older people.
9) Resistance training can help you avoid injuries.
What type of exercise or activity comes to mind when you think about staying physically healthy and lowering your risk of injury? If stretching activities are at the top of your list, it's time to rethink your options. Not only does research show that stretching has no benefit for injury prevention, but it also shows that strength training reduces the risk of injury by nearly 70%. In other words, lifting weights on a regular basis reduces the risk of injury by more than a third.
10) Resistance training has been shown to improve the quality of life.
While quality of life can mean different things to different people, it is generally a function of one's ability to do what one enjoys and is required to do in order to remain independent. Along those lines, resistance training is critical for maintaining muscle strength and endurance in order to perform various daily activities and remain physically independent. It goes without saying that resistance training improves the health-related quality of life.
If that doesn't get you excited about muscle building and you can't see the connection between muscular strength and longevity, I don't know what will.