Activities that strengthen muscles — like lifting weights — should be part of an older person’s weekly exercise routine, a new study suggests.
US researchers found that people who did both cardio and weight training were more likely to live longer than those who did just one or the other.
But you don’t have to go to the gym — it’s also worth carrying heavy shopping bags, digging in the garden and doing Pilates.
Both types of activity are indicated according to current recommendations.
The NHS, the UK public health system, advises adults over 65 to be physically active every day and do activities to improve strength, balance and flexibility at least twice a week.
It also recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity if you’re already active.
Regularly increasing your heart rate is known to make people fitter and healthier, as well as helping to prolong their lives.
But little is known about the effects of weight lifting or muscle-strengthening exercises on how long people live.
The American study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, asked more than 150,000 people in their 60s and 70s about their exercise routine and then followed up on them.
The researchers found that participants who did the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week lived longer than those who didn’t — but those who combined regular aerobic exercise with muscle-strengthening activities once or twice a week fared even better.
They had a 47% lower risk of dying from any cause except cancer over the next nine years — than those who were not active.
Doing only weight lifting reduced risk by as much as 9-22%, and aerobic exercise alone by 24-34%.
Examples of aerobic exercise, which pumps the heart and lungs, include brisk walking, running, cycling, and swimming.
The study also found that women benefited more from weight lifting than men.
The research team, from the National Cancer Institute of Maryland and the University of Iowa, both in the US, explained that muscle-strengthening exercises can make the body leaner and bones stronger, leading to a healthier life in old age.
“Our finding that the risk of mortality appears to be lower for those who practiced both types of exercise provides strong support for current recommendations for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities,” said study author Jessica Gorzelitz.
“Older people would likely benefit from adding weight lifting exercises to their physical activity routines.”
The study only focused on weights, but the researchers say other types of exercise also apply, such as push-ups, squats, and pilates.
According to the NHS, muscle strengthening activities can include:
- Carrying heavy shopping bags;
- Tai chi;
- Exercise with resistance bands;
- Do exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups.
- Heavy gardening.
The study, while large, was observational and failed to prove that it was weight lifting that made people live longer. It also depended on whether participants remembered, at any given time, how much exercise they had done in the previous year.
However, the researchers tried to eliminate other factors that could have influenced the outcome, such as education, race, and ethnicity, but still found the same result.
– This text was published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-63058329