We all know that exercise helps keep the body healthy, but which types of exercise can truly help you live longer and avoid premature death? A study published in July 2018 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that regularly engaging in both aerobic exercise and strength training can reduce the risk of dying from the eight main causes of death by a significant 40%, far more effective than doing only one type of exercise.
An international research team conducted a 17-year (1997-2014) national health survey of nearly 480,000 American adults aged 18 and older, collecting data on many health indicators and behaviors, including aerobic exercise, strength training, and their associations with eight specific causes of death, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents and injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney diseases.
The results showed that compared to those who did not meet the recommendations of the US Physical Activity Guidelines (doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, combined with at least two sessions of strength training per week), those who regularly engaged in both aerobic exercise and strength training during the study period had a significantly reduced risk of death from the above causes by 40%. By comparison, those who only did aerobic exercise had a 29% reduced risk of death, while those who only did strength training had an 11% reduced risk.
Although this was an observational study, it cannot directly conclude that “exercise is the reason for longevity”. However, such a large sample size can indeed prove that cross-training is not only beneficial for exercise performance but also quite important for maintaining health! The main reason is that muscles perform various types of exercise in different ways and affect metabolic function, which in turn affects the main causes of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Cross-training is very helpful for longevity because it makes lifelong exercise easier. An exercise medicine study found that cross-training can reduce the risk of overtraining and psychological fatigue, and improve overall health. Therefore, no matter which type of exercise you prefer, incorporating strength training into your regular training regimen can not only improve your exercise performance but also greatly improve your health.