Can Lifting Weights Help You Live Longer?

 

Lifting weights is not just for bodybuilders. Don’t write it off as something that isn’t for you because “I don’t want huge muscles” or “I’m not interested in looking ripped or shredded.”

Weightlifting and strength training provides a host of benefits that go way beyond how you look. These muscle-strengthening activities are associated with a reduced risk for:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • cancer

Since these chronic illnesses are among the leading causes of death worldwide, taking steps to lower your risk can significantly impact your longevity.

Extending Both Lifespan and Healthspan

Lifting weights is not just for young people either. Older adults may even receive greater benefits from lifting weights, as stronger muscles can help offset some of the effects of aging.

Aging tends to weaken muscles and bones, leading to a loss of strength, mobility, and balance. This, in turn, can increase your risk of serious falls, fractures, and potentially life-threatening injuries.

But, with a regular weightlifting routine, you can help to slow down or reverse these effects of aging on your body while also reducing your risk for developing chronic diseases—so not only will you be more likely to live longer (lifespan), you’ll also stay healthy and independent for longer (healthspan).

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

The optimal amount of strength training for maximum risk reduction appears to be around an hour each week in two separate sessions. Or, phrased another way, that means lifting weights for half an hour every 3 or 4 days. More than that doesn’t seem to offer any additional benefit and may even start to increase your risk for injury, so there’s no need to go overboard.

You can also improve your healthspan and lifespan further by combining weightlifting with other exercises like aerobic activities, flexibility training, and balance training exercises. With these additional activities, 3 hours per week is a great amount.

A good way to do this may be to lift weights for 30 minutes on Monday and Friday, go for a 30-minute walk or a bike ride on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and do something fun like yoga or a sport on Saturday. Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit into your schedule so that you’re more likely to stick with them long-term.

What Type of Weightlifting Should You Do?

There are all sorts of different weightlifting exercises that you can do, and you don’t necessarily need to use heavy barbells at the gym to do it.

If you are new to weightlifting, start with some light dumbbells that you can comfortably lift. You might even be able to use household items like soup cans or water bottles. You can gradually increase to heavier dumbbells or more elaborate equipment as you get stronger.

Good exercises to start with include:

  • bicep curls
  • triceps extensions
  • shoulder presses
  • squats
  • lunges
  • calf raises

There are many more exercises that you can do, and there are endless possibilities for ways to mix things up. You can find all sorts of weightlifting routines online, in exercise books, or even at your local gym.

If you have any injuries or chronic health conditions, check with your doctor before starting a weightlifting routine to ensure it’s safe for you. You may need guidance or assistance from a physical therapist to ensure you are building your muscles safely and effectively.