Regular weightlifting could add years to your life, study finds

KONYA, TURKIYE - AUGUST 15: Olawale Barde Patrick of Nigeria competes in the men's weightlifting during the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Turkiye on August 15, 2022. (Photo by Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A new study suggests that regularly pumping iron could lower the risk of death in older adults. 

A team of scientists from the National Cancer Institute recently published their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine

However, researchers said a weekly exercise routine should include both weightlifting and aerobic activities to have an additive effect. 

For the study, researchers drew participants from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial that began in 1993 and included 154,897 men and women aged 55–74.

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In 2006, 104,002 of the participants were also asked if they had exercised with weights within the past year and how often. They were also asked about the frequency and duration of both moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity over the past year. 

The study’s results included the responses of 99,713 people; 28,477 of them died over an average of 9½ years of monitoring. The average age at the start of the monitoring period was 71, and the average weight (BMI) was 27.8 kg/m2 which is defined as overweight. 

Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) respondents said they engaged in some weightlifting activity. Sixteen percent said they regularly exercised with weights between one to six times a week. Nearly a third (32%) were sufficiently aerobically active.

Researchers found working out with weights was associated with a 9-22% lower risk of death. For example, using weights once or twice a week was associated with a 20% lower risk. Those who just did aerobics were associated with a 24-34% lower risk of death.

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However, researchers found that those who engaged in weightlifting and aerobics had an even lower risk of death, as much as 47% in certain scenarios. 

Researchers said they don’t know the cause between weightlifting and longevity; however, they said weightlifting can produce a leaner body, which is associated with a lower risk of death.

"Our finding that mortality risk appeared to be lowest for those who participated in both types of exercise provides strong support for current recommendations to engage in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities," the study’s authors said in a statement. 

"Older adults would probably benefit from adding weightlifting exercises to their physical activity routines," they continued. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.