Aerobic activities and weight training, what we refer to as balanced exercise when doing both, have health benefits on their own. Combining them could have even greater effect when it comes to disease prevention and early death risk.
Studies Show Balanced Exercise Lowers Risk of Dying Early
According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who lifted weights once or twice per week, as well as the recommended amount of aerobic activities, had a 41% lower risk of dying early. The research team based its findings on the self-reports and health information of nearly 100,000 men and women who participated in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, which spanned 18 years (1998-2016)!
Participants answered questionnaires in 2006 about their exercise habits over the past year, and the authors of this latest study checked whether these participants had developed cancer or died by 2016. Older adults who did weight training without any aerobic activity reduced their risk of early death from any cause by up to 22%, a percentage that depended on the number of times they lifted weights within a week – using weights once or twice weekly was associated with a 14% lower risk, and the benefit increased the more times someone lifted weights.
Those who did aerobic exercise lowered their risk by up to 34%, compared with participants who didn’t do any weight training or aerobic exercise. But the lowest risk (41% to 47%) was among those who met recommended weekly amounts of aerobic activity and lifted weights once or twice per week, compared with those who weren’t active.
Participants’ education, smoking status, body mass index, race and ethnicity didn’t impact the findings but sex did, as the associations were more significant among women, the researchers found.
The findings support the joint benefits of muscle-strengthening activities via weight training along with aerobic activity, in amounts that roughly align with current physical activity guidelines.
How Can You Achieve A Balanced Exercise Regimen?
SO, what are those guidelines? The World Health Organization recommends that older adults (ages 65 and up) do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. Aerobic activities include walking, dancing, running or jogging, cycling, and swimming. Muscle-strengthening exercises should be done at least twice weekly if possible, according to the guidelines. Those can help prevent falls and related injuries, as well as declines in bone health and ability.
Weight-training exercises you can do for 30 to 60 minutes include dead lifts, chest press, bent over rows, goblet squats, biceps curls, overhead dumbbell presses and dumbbell lateral raises, which involve using your back and shoulder muscles to lift light dumbbells so that your arms and body form a T shape.
The authors of this landmark article didn’t have information about the specific weight training or aerobic exercises participants did. There was no information about training intensity, training load or volume (sets and repetitions, so the optimal prescription for regular muscle-strengthening exercises to prevent mortality remains unclear.
But the researchers did have some ideas about how either exercise might help with prevention of disease or early death.
Weight training can improve body composition or lean muscle mass, which has been previously associated with greater protection against dying early from any cause and cardiovascular disease.
Having more lean muscle and less body fat can help with balance, posture and can even help in regulating cholesterol levels. It is well-known that individuals with obesity are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, glucose intolerance and some cancers, so improving their health profile is paramount. Also, people who participate in regular activity may benefit psychologically, and will have a healthier outlook and other healthy lifestyles.
The increased benefit from combining both exercises could be because the two work together to improve health. It’s thought that a balanced exercise regimen more closely mimics the lifestyles of our remote ancestors.
The bottom line? For now, older adults who do either exercise should incorporate the other into their daily lives. It’s well established that some physical activity is better than none at all. Combining these activities in a time-efficient manner seems to have great benefits, especially in the older population.
Board-Certified Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Board-Certified Electrodiagnostic Medicine
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