We’ve all heard that staying in shape is a key factor to longevity. While most people think walking or other cardio-friendly activities are the road to staying healthy and living longer, a new study from Penn State’s College of Medicine, reported in Men’s Health, found that strength training as you age can cut your risk of an early death by a formidable 46 percent.
Researchers surveyed a pool of individuals aged 65 or older and took data on their exercise habits over 15 years, during which time nearly a third died. The initial data indicated that less than 10 percent of the individuals strength-trained. As the study went on, it became apparent that those select few were 46 percent less likely to die during the study than their cohorts.
Of course, you could make the argument that aging people who lift must be in better health overall. But the study adjusted for factors like BMI, chronic conditions, and habits like total physical activity, drinking, and smoking — and lifting weights was still linked to a 19 percent reduced risk of death.
Study author Jennifer Kraschnewski, M.D., believes strength training can turbo-charge your activity level and independence as you grow older. Dr. Kraschnewski explained that lifting weights strengthens your muscles and increases bone density, which together lead to better stamina and balance, and fewer incidences of falls that result in broken bones (a major source of disability for older adults). A side benefit of strength training is that it also bolsters a healthy weight – carrying around more muscle mass means that you’ll burn more calories throughout your day.
If you want to start a lifting regime but have some trepidation about your current shape, don’t fret, says Dr. Kraschnewski. Older adults have the ability to reap the benefits of strength training in a way similar to that of their younger counterparts just by participating in a simple weight lifting routine. While strength training is safe for just about anyone, Dr. Kraschnewski encourages those who are 65 or older and inactive to talk to their doctor first. You may need to start out with a routine built around tight hips or creaky knees, but you’ll be lifting your way to longevity in no time.