The researchers who conducted the study reported that both heavy gardening and exercise offer health benefits, especially if they last 30 minutes to one hour per week. This is good news, especially for the elderly, since keeping your bones and muscles healthy as you get older can help prevent many health issues and even slow down aging.
The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Muscle-strengthening found to benefit overall health
The study was conducted by scientists at Tohoku University in Japan who reviewed over a dozen international studies.
According to the results, activities like weight lifting or using resistance bands can help prevent early death. Since the average adult can do 10 push-ups per minute, you would need to do at least 300 per week. The researchers added that heavy gardening, which involves digging and shoveling, was just as beneficial as doing push-ups.
Findings also revealed that at least 30 to 60 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity per week lowered the risk of dying by as much as 20 percent. If you’re physically fit, you can achieve this by engaging in muscle-building activities like push-ups, sit-ups and squats.
If you’re not fit enough for vigorous exercise, you can achieve the same effect by digging and shoveling in your garden. The researchers also found that the benefits were greater when looking specifically at the risk of death from diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
They added that there was “no conclusive evidence” that doing muscle-strengthening activities for more than one hour reduced the risk any further. The researchers concluded that combining muscle strengthening and cardio exercise may increase the protective benefits of regular exercise. (Related: Active older adults who increase their fitness levels halve their risk of early death.)
What’s the “optimal dose” of beneficial exercise?
Earlier studies have shown that muscle strengthening is linked to a lower death risk, but the researchers from Tohoku University wanted to determine the “optimal dose” of regular physical activity.
For their study, the researchers analyzed 16 studies on the potential life-extending benefits of muscle strengthening. All of the academic papers followed adult volunteers with no prior major health issues for at least two years.
Most of the studies were conducted in the United States, with a handful from Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom. The longest study went on for 25 years.
The sample size of the studies varied between 4,000 to nearly 480,000 participants. In all of the studies, volunteers did aerobic or other types of physical activity like muscle-strengthening activity.
After reviewing the studies, the researchers found that adults who exercised for at least 30 minutes every week had between a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of death. But there was no reported risk reduction for certain types of cancer, like cancer of the bladder, bowel, kidney or pancreas.
When studying deaths linked to diabetes, data showed that muscle-strengthening activity totaling at least one hour per week significantly reduced the risk of death. However, the benefits started to lessen when physical activity lasted longer than 60 minutes.
Additionally, the researchers said that the benefits were greatest when muscle strengthening was combined with 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week. This helped reduce death risk by at least 28 percent for cancer, 40 percent from any cause and 46 percent for heart disease.
According to Dr. Haruki Momma, the study’s lead author, the “combination of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities may provide a greater benefit for reducing all-cause, cardiovascular disease and total cancer mortality.”
But Momma also said that the current data is limited and continued research on more diverse populations than the ones the team examined can help “increase the certainty of the evidence.”
Strength training tips for beginners
Regular exercise is important for your general well-being. If you’re worried about hurting yourself, the tips below can help ensure a safe and injury-free workout.
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