Many people have long recognized the association of regular physical exercise with health, vitality, and longevity.
However, those positive effects are typically attributed to cardio exercise. It’s not intuitive for us to associate strength and strength training with longevity.
But as it turns out, the connection is real. Regular strength training raises the odds of extending one’s life.
Gaining and maintaining muscle strength is actually an ideal pursuit for the prospect of longevity.
How does being stronger help us live longer?
In a word: irisin.
Irisin is a protein that’s released by muscle. The more muscle we possess, the more irisin is released into our blood.
And it just so happens that high irisin levels are associated with a longer life span.
When researchers measured serum levels of irisin in a group of 79 centenarians (aged 100–104), they found high levels of irisin.
When the researchers compared those with the serum irisin levels of a group of young people (aged 27–39), the centenarian’s levels were higher.
The researchers also took irisin samples from a group of 27-39 year olds who’d had myocardial infarction (heart attack).
There was an even greater disparity between the high levels of irisin the centenarians possessed and the low levels the young ‘cardiac-challenged’ adults displayed.
This study’s findings led the researchers to conclude that more research is needed in uncovering the connection between irisin and longevity.
In the mean time, it likely provides a clue as to why stronger, bigger-muscled guys tend to live long, provided they don’t augment their muscle building with drug use.
Strength and Longevity: Cohort Study (Irisin in Action?)
Becoming a stronger man could help you stave off certain life-threatening diseases.
That’s the finding of a prospective cohort study out of Sweden.
A ‘prospective cohort study’ is one in which researchers follow a group of similar individuals over a period of time – usually years, sometimes decades.
The individuals in the study (“cohorts”) will typically differ with respect to certain factors being examined. This is to determine how those factors affect rates of a specific outcome.
In this case the ‘differences in factors’ was relative strength.
The “specific outcome” was likelihood of death from all causes.
Pretty simple; very straightforward.
The researchers stated their objective this way: “To examine prospectively the association between muscular strength and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in men.”
The subjects were 8,762 men ranging in age from 20 to 80 years. They were studied from 1980 to 2003.
The results were then corrected for “physical activity, current smoking, alcohol intake, body mass index, baseline medical conditions, family history of cardiovascular disease, and cardio-respiratory fitness”
That way, the researchers could totally isolate the association between strength and mortality.
What were their findings?
In their own words: “Muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer in men, even after adjusting for cardio-respiratory fitness and other potential confounders.”
Bottom line: Strong men displayed a reduced risk of dying.
In addition, there was a 33% less likelihood of strong men dying of cancer than there was of weaker men dying of the disease.
There is mounting evidence that one of the best insurances you have against early death is to get stronger.
‘Strength training for longevity’: Just one more great reason among many to lift weights, build muscle, and gain strength.
- Emanuele E., Minoretti P., Pareja-Galeano H., Sanchis-Gomar F., Garatachea N, Lucia A. ‘Serum irisin levels, precocious myocardial infarction, and healthy exceptional longevity.’ The American Journal of Medicine (Volume 127, Issue 9, Pages 888–890) Sept 2014
- Ruiz JR, Sui X, Lobelo F, Morrow JR Jr, Jackson AW, Sjöström M, Blair SN. ‘Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: prospective cohort study.’ British Medical Journal, (Volume 337, Issue a439, pages 92-95) 2008.