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Physical activity guidelines for older adults include at least two days of strength training and 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week. However, many people underestimate muscle strengthening, relying instead on the heart-pumping benefits of aerobic exercise.
That would be a mistake, a new study has found. Regardless of aerobic physical activity, adults over 65 who did strength training two to six times a week lived longer than those who did less than twice, according to study author Dr. Bryant Webber, an epidemiologist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Physical Activity. Obesity in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Each type of physical activity was independently associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality in older adults,” Webber said in an email.
“Those who met only the muscle-strengthening guideline (a) had a 10% lower risk of mortality, those who met the aerobic guideline had a 24% lower risk of mortality, and those who met both guidelines had a 30% lower risk,” he said.
The results applied to all age groups, including the elderly, according to the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Network Open.
People over 85 who met the aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines had a 28% lower risk of dying from any cause than those over 85 who did not meet either of the guidelines, according to the study.
“This finding suggests that aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity is valuable throughout life,” Webber said.
The study looked at leisure and other physical activities collected by the National Health Interview Survey, the CDC’s ongoing study of American health. Information on strength training and aerobic activity was then compared by age group with an average of eight years of death.
The study controlled for demographics and marital status, body mass index, history of smoking or alcohol consumption, and the presence of asthma, cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
Looking only at data on strength training, the study found that adults who did two to three sessions per week or four to six sessions of strength-training exercise had a lower risk of death from any cause than adults who did strength training less than twice a week.
Doing more wasn’t beneficial – the study found seven to 28 sessions weekly strength training it offered no additional protection.
You don’t have to go to a gym to strengthen your muscles, says the CDC. You can lift weights at home, work out with resistance bands, use your body weight for resistance (such as push-ups and sit-ups), and dig or shovel in the garden. Although “lifting cans could be considered a muscle-strengthening activity,” Webber said.
The goal is to work all the major muscle groups of the body: abdomen, arms, back, chest, hips, legs and shoulders.
Looking only at data on aerobic exercise, the study found that doing between 10 and 300 minutes per week was associated with a lower risk of death from any cause compared with less than 10 minutes per week.
Aerobic activities can include walking, biking, hiking, raking leaves and mowing grass, and water exercises to name a few.