Strength has a direct influence on how long you live. In short, a recent study looked at the relationship among strength, muscle mass and mortality. While muscle mass didn’t have much of an effect on life expectancy, those people who fell into the low muscle strength group were twice as likely to have died during the roughly 10 year follow-up. So, even though I don’t look like the Rock (yet!), as long as I have good functional strength, I’m likely to live longer. A second study of 80,000 subjects in Great Britain showed that those who reported doing strength training were 23% less likely to die during the study period and 31% less likely to die of cancer.
In addition to strength training twice a week, we’re technically supposed to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. In fact, running may be the single most effective exercise to increase longevity. On average, runners live about 3 years longer than non-runners, even if it’s done slowly or intermittently, and regardless of whether they drink, smoke or are overweight. Even 5 minutes a day can make a difference, although the recommendations are certainly for a bit more sustained activity. Risk of premature death, from causes like heart attacks, decrease by about 40%. The return from running is pretty good as well. For the average runner who runs 2 hours per week (about 6 months total over 40 years), he or she typically lives about 3.2 years longer than a non-runner. That means, for every hour run, life expectancy increase about 7 hours. So, does that mean if I run 4 hours a day, I can live forever?! Not exactly...the maximum return for time invested peaks at about 4 hours per week. That being said, 4 hours x 7 is 28 hours, or a little more than a day per week of running.
So, if I hate to run, am I gonna die? Even walking, cycling and other aerobic activities can help reduce the risk of premature death by around 12%, so there’s still some benefit to be had with the other choices, too. Not to mention, the best outcomes typically occur with a combination of strength and aerobic training. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a long, healthy retirement with a significant other or meet your great grand-children (or even to just keep up with your 18 month old), the time to begin that investment in yourself and your health starts today :)