Strength exercise as vital as aerobic, new research finds

November 1, 2017, University of Sydney
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Push ups and sit ups could add years to your life according to a new study of over 80,000 adults led by the University of Sydney.

The largest study to compare the mortality outcomes of different types of found people who did strength-based exercise had a 23 percent reduction in risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 percent reduction in cancer-related death.

Lead author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre said while strength training has been given some attention for functional benefits as we age, little research has looked at its impact on mortality.

"The study shows exercise that promotes muscular strength may be just as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling," said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

"And assuming our findings reflect cause and effect relationships, it may be even more vital when it comes to reducing risk of death from cancer."

The World Health Organization's Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend 150 minutes of , plus two days of muscle strengthening activities each week.

Associate Professor Stamatakis said governments and authorities have neglected to promote strength-based guidelines in the community, and as such misrepresented how active we are as a nation.

He cites the example of The Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey which, based on aerobic activity alone, reports inactivity at 53 percent. However, when the World Health Organization's (WHO) strength-based guidelines are also taken into account, 85 percent of Australians fail to meet recommendations.

"Unfortunately, less than 19 percent of Australian adults do the recommended amount of strength-based exercise," said Associate Professor Stamatakis.

"Our message to date has just been to get moving but this study prompts a rethink about, when appropriate, expanding the kinds of exercise we are encouraging for long-term health and wellbeing."

The analysis also showed exercises performed using one's own body weight without specific equipment were just as effective as gym-based training.

"When people think of strength training they instantly think of doing weights in a gym, but that doesn't have to be the case.

"Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs or the culture they promote, so it's great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park and potentially reap the same health benefits."

The research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology today, is based on a pooled population sample of over 80,306 adults with data drawn from the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey, linked with the NHS Central Mortality Register.

The study was observational, however adjustments were made to reduce the influence of other factors such as age, sex, status, lifestyle behaviours and education level. All participants with established cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline and those who passed away in the first two years of follow up were excluded from the study to reduce the possibility of skewing results due to those with pre-existing conditions participating in less exercise.

Summary of key findings:

  • participation in any strength-promoting exercise was associated with a 23 percent reduction in all-cause mortality and a 31 percent reduction in cancer mortality
  • own bodyweight exercises that can be performed in any setting without equipment yielded comparable results to gym-based activities
  • adherence to WHO's strength-promoting exercise guideline alone was associated with reduced risk of cancer-related death, but adherence to the WHO's aerobic guideline alone was not
  • adherence to WHO's strength-promoting exercise and aerobic guidelines combined was associated with a greater risk reduction in mortality than alone
  • there was no evidence of an association between strength-promoting exercise and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Explore further: Strength training can have unique health benefits, and it doesn't have to happen in a gym

More information: Jason A. Bennie et al. The descriptive epidemiology of total physical activity, muscle-strengthening exercises and sedentary behaviour among Australian adults – results from the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, BMC Public Health (2016). DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-2736-3

Related Stories

Strength training can have unique health benefits, and it doesn't have to happen in a gym

November 1, 2017
Most of us probably know exercising is associated with a smaller risk of premature death, but a new study has found that doesn't have to happen in a CrossFit box, a ninja warrior studio, or even a gym. Body weight-bearing ...

Researcher prescribes specific exercise dosage for those with spinal cord injury

October 26, 2017
For decades, the main message to keep the general population healthy was for everyone to get active.

Strength training helps older adults live longer

April 20, 2016
Older adults who met twice-weekly strength-training guidelines had lower odds of dying in a new analysis by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Columbia University. ...

Yoga and aerobic exercise together may improve heart disease risk factors

October 19, 2017
Heart disease patients who practice yoga in addition to aerobic exercise saw twice the reduction in blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels when compared to patients who practiced either Indian yoga or aerobic ...

'Weekend warriors' have lower risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease

January 9, 2017
The finding suggests that less frequent bouts of activity, which might fit more easily into a busy lifestyle, offer significant health benefits, even in the obese and those with medical risk factors.

Walking below minimum recommended levels linked to lower mortality risk compared to inactivity

October 19, 2017
A new study concludes that walking has the potential to significantly improve the public's health. It finds regular walking, even if not meeting the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared ...

Recommended for you

Crunched for time? High-intensity exercise = same cell benefits in fewer minutes

September 20, 2018
A few minutes of high-intensity interval or sprinting exercise may be as effective as much longer exercise sessions in spurring beneficial improvements in mitochondrial function, according to new research. The small study ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

Time to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, says senior doctor

September 19, 2018
It's time to bring in laws to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people in England to tackle the twin epidemics of obesity and mental health problems, argues Professor Russell Viner, President ...

For-profit hospitals correlated with higher readmission rates

September 19, 2018
Patients who receive care in a for-profit hospital are more likely to be readmitted than those who receive care in nonprofit or public hospitals, according to a new study published by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers.

Sugar content of most supermarket yogurts well above recommended threshold

September 18, 2018
A comprehensive survey of ingredients in yogurts highlights high sugar levels in many—particularly organic yogurts and those marketed towards children.

Research confronts 'yucky' attitudes about genetically engineered foods

September 18, 2018
Is a non-browning apple less "natural" than non-fat milk? In one case, people have injected something into apple DNA to prevent it from turning brown after it's cut. In the other, people used technology to remove something ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.