Researchers have linked regular weight training in old age to a lower risk of premature death – by as much as 47%…

Keep hitting the weights well into your twilight years, a new study suggests. It turns out, regular weight training in old age can reduce your risk of dying early.

And combining weight training and regular aerobic activity can lower this risk even further – by up to 47%.

Researchers from the US National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, examined data from almost 150,000 adults, aged between 55 and 74, in the largest study of its kind.

Good news for weight lifters

The results from this major US screening study show for the first time that weight training in old age has been linked with a lower risk of premature death – something aerobic exercise is consistently associated with.

Participants disclosed their weightlifting activity, with 23% saying they took part in weight training and 16% reporting they did so between one and six times a week.

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Almost a third of participants met NHS exercise recommendations for over-65s. These include taking part in 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. It also encourages them to do strengthening activities two days a week. That can involve working on legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest and shoulders.

Strength-building benefits

In the ten years after the screening, there were 28,477 deaths from the screening group. The study found adults who lifted weights alone had a 9-22% lower risk of dying from any cause except cancer. It also found that those who did just aerobic exercise decreased their risk by 24-34%.

However, the risk of premature death in the group who met the aerobic activity guidelines and lifted weights regularly fell by up to a huge 47%.

The study focused on weights, but acknowledged the importance of other muscle strengthening exercises. It mentioned the benefits of press-ups, squats, burpees, pilates and even lifting heavy shopping.

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The study, which was was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found women in their sixties and seventies benefitted from weight lifting more than men.

The underlying message is that combining weight lifting with aerobic exercise gives you the greatest protection from premature death as you get older.

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