Strength training has notable benefits beyond building muscle, including reduced risk of death (i.e., mortality).
While regular strength training is part of a number of physical activity guidelines worldwide, there is limited research that has studied the effect of strength training on pre-mature death prevention, especially when compared to aerobic training. In addition, very few studies have looked at the ‘dose’ of strength training required to achieve profound health outcomes.
In order to examine the long-term effectiveness of strength training, researchers from Japan conducted an analysis that pooled results from 16 different studies looking at the effects of strength training on mortality.
Researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis which involved collecting, analysing and combining results from all relevant studies between 2012 and 2020.
The researchers scoured research databases for relevant observational studies that included adults without major health issues who had been monitored for at least 2 years. The studies included in the analysis were performed across the world, including the USA, England, Australia and Japan.
The studies included for meta-analysis focused on structured resistance/strength/weight training exercises, as opposed to movements such as carrying heavy loads and heavy gardening which have been considered “muscle-strengthening activities” in the literature.
The most important finding was that strength training reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 15%. In addition, researchers looked at specific health conditions and the effect that strength training had on the risk of common chronic diseases:
- Cardiovascular disease - 17% reduced risk (from seven studies with a combined 257,888 participants)
- Cancer – 12% reduced risk (from six studies with a combined 540,543 participants)
- Diabetes – 17% reduced risk (from five studies with a combined 202,486 participants)
Is more always better?
One of the most interesting findings from the study is that more strength training is not necessarily better. The study found 30-60 min of strength training per week was most protective against mortality risk which became less effective up to about 2 hours of strength training per week.
In the case of diabetes risk, the study showed little added benefits beyond performing 1 hour of strength training per week.
Given a small number of studies were included in this meta-analysis, results should be interpreted with caution but nonetheless provide novel insight into the links between strength training, death and disease risk.
The role of aerobic exercise
Similar to findings in previous studies, this meta-analysis highlights the fact that when combined with aerobic exercise, your risk of mortality continues to decrease, up to nearly 40%.
Overall, this study is a great resource for the entire Kieser community as it shows the benefits of strength training in reducing your risk of developing prevalent chronic health conditions and that 2 sessions at Kieser per week is enough to see these benefits.
If you are interested in learning more about how Kieser can help with the management of your chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis), please reach out to an Exercise Physiologist at your local clinic.