A research study from Sydney University has looked at the impact of weight training (or 'strength promoting exercise' as it is called in the study) on a group of 80,000 people. Data was taken from the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey from 1994–2008. The study compared Strength Promoting Exercise (it could be gym exercise, or body weight strength training) and its impact on mortality (all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular disease mortality).
The results reveal some really encouraging positive relationships between weight training and health. The study found that in those who did weight training, there was a 23% reduced risk of premature death, and a 31% reduction in the number of cancer related deaths. Those numbers are impressive.
This study has inspired me to outline some of the facts we know about muscle strength, health, and exercise. Strength training is something we should all consider including in our weekly exercise mix- regardless of our age or level of fitness.
What happens to our muscles as we age?
From the age of 30, if we are physically inactive, we tend to lose muscle mass at the rate of between 3 and 5 percent per decade. Reducing muscle mass can have an impact on strength, balance, hormones. There is a summary article here on muscle loss otherwise known as sarcopenia.
How do you prevent muscle loss?
The most effective treatment for preventing muscle loss is....EXERCISE. And specifically, exercise with a focus on strength training, or weight lifting. This will of course look different for different people and different age groups. But it is a form of exercise that anyone can take on - with the right guidance and advice, every age group can benefit.
What else can strength training do for us?
Strength training has been shown to make us stronger (of course!), to improve bone density, improve balance, weight control, improve mental well-being, to improve glycemic control (important in Type 2 diabetes), and to reduce frailty in old age.
If you would like to introduce strength training into your exercise life, seek the expert advice of your physiotherapist, or a qualified fitness trainer to get started.