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 exercise 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.
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. The World Health Organization's Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity, plus two days of muscle strengthening activities each week.
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.
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 physical activity 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 aerobic physical activity alone
- there was no evidence of an association between strength-promoting exercise and cardiovascular disease mortality.