There are so many things you can do to live a longer life—from making healthier dietary choices to reducing stress to sleeping better.
But did you know that exercise—and one exercise in particular—can decrease mortality risk by a whopping 20%?
That’s a pretty impressive boost in your chance of living a long, healthy life just by taking one single action!
Below, we’re going to dive into the science behind this claim, examining the research that illustrated the benefits of this exercise, and look at other studies that back it up.
By the end of this article, you’ll be convinced that doing this one type of exercise is the smart way to increase your longevity and stave off a wide range of health conditions.
Yes, you read that right: resistance training is the exercise that was proven to lead to a longer lifespan and lower mortality rates.
Any exercise that helps you to build muscle—be it lifting weights, bodyweight training, etc.—can yield this significant improvement, as the research we’re about to dive into proved.
The first study we’ll look at is a meta-analysis from 2022 . The data from 16 different studies were included in the meta-analysis, all of which involved adults over the age of 18. The association between resistance training, muscle-strengthening activities and health outcomes were measured, including:
First off, the bad news: resistance training didn’t decrease cancer risk, at least in any of the site-specific cancers (such as bladder, kidney, pancreatic, or colon cancer). For that, you’ll have to take other measures, such as reducing your intake of unhealthy foods, decreasing stress, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and getting enough Vitamin D.
But, for the rest of the health conditions studied, the results were pretty impressive, to say the least.
The research proved that just 60 minutes per week of muscle-strengthening activities led to a significant decrease in diabetes risk. Exercise plays a critical role in blood sugar control, burning through the glucose stored in your bloodstream and liver and making your body more efficient at regulating your insulin and glucose levels. The more you exercise, the more your risk of diabetes and prediabetes decreases.
Just 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per week was also enough to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the data analyzed. Given that exercise burns through fat as well as glucose, it can clear out a lot of the lipids floating in your bloodstream. Those lipids would otherwise clog up your arteries and harden into plaque, which could increase your risk of atherosclerosis and arterial blockages that lead to strokes and heart attacks. Plus, resistance training also strengthens your cardiovascular system (your heart muscles, lung muscles, and blood vessels), decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
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And, finally, all-cause mortality. This refers to “death due to any disease, complication, or hazardous exposure” . Muscle-building activities won’t protect you from hazardous exposure (to radiation, chemicals, etc.), but it can reduce your risk of death due to diseases or complications from disease.
According to the data, all-cause mortality rates decreased by as much as 20% thanks to just 30 to 60 minutes of muscle-building exercise.
What’s amazing is that this isn’t the only study to find such results. In fact, many past studies have proven similar effects directly stemming from resistance training and muscle-building exercises.
A 2021 study  found that up to 150 minutes of weekly resistance training led to:
Up to 25% reduction in cardiovascular disease
Up to 20% reduction in cancer mortality
Up to 30% reduction in diabetes risk
Up to 25% reduction in all-cause mortality
Another study from 2021  discovered that frequent muscle-strengthening exercise could lead to a 28% lower cancer mortality rate versus the control group that did no exercise.
A study from 2023  concluded that “If all insufficiently active individuals had (done sufficient aerobic and muscle-training activity) achieved 8.75 mMET-hours/week, 15.7% of all premature deaths would have been averted.”
One simple addition to your lifestyle, but what a massive long-term effect it can have!
Let’s be honest: if you’re not already doing resistance training and muscle-building exercise, chances are it’s not going to feel like an “easy” thing to do.
Because muscle-building is HARD!
It takes an immense amount of effort to lift heavy weights, and do it over and over again, repeatedly, for weeks and months and years at a time.
The reason so many of us opt for other forms of exercise—such as team sports, martial arts, dance, Yoga, or aerobic exercise--is because they are both easier and often more fun than resistance training.
But, as the research above proves, resistance training is a necessary part of life. That means it’s time to start including it in your week.
How can you do that?
Step 1: Start off with just one weekly session. The benefits mentioned above can be obtained with as little as 30 to 60 minutes per week, so start there. Slot yourself a one-hour weightlifting workout every week to start off with. Do it at home or at a gym—just do it!
Step 2: Work your full body. In the beginning, you don’t need to worry about focusing on individual muscle groups or splitting your training up into multiple days. Focus on workouts that incorporate your whole body: Push exercises for your chest, triceps, and shoulder “push” muscles; Pull exercises for your back, biceps, and shoulder “pull” muscles; core exercises that strengthen your abs, back, and side muscles; and lower body exercises that train your leg muscles. Make a full workout with these exercises to start building muscle in your entire body today.
Step 3: Test to find what works for you. The more resistance training you do, the more you can experiment with various workouts. Maybe you find you like to do circuit training, which involves alternating push, pull, and leg exercises. Or you prefer to split the workouts up between upper and lower body, or Push and Pull, or some other variation you encounter. Keep testing workouts to see which fit your schedule and prove the most enjoyable.
Step 4: Keep adding more workouts. The 30 to 60 minutes of resistance training per week is the minimum recommended, not the maximum. The truth is that it’s very hard for the average working professional to spend TOO MUCH TIME at the gym lifting weights—we’re just too busy for that. But if you can make it a point to get 4-6 weekly workouts, each between 30 and 60 minutes, you’ll begin to see real results. Not just in terms of muscle-building, but also fat loss, better health, lower diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk, and, of course, lower all-cause mortality risk.
As you saw by the data above, the time you invest into resistance training and muscle-building activities will have long-term positive consequences—specifically, it’ll stave off disease and help you to live longer.
There can be no better argument for incorporating it into your life!
But then when you realize that it’ll also help you to manage your weight, blood sugar, blood lipids, and cardiovascular conditioning, not to mention that it’ll build your confidence and help you look and feel better about yourself, you can understand why it’s absolutely crucial and deserves a place in your weekly schedule.
Make time to train today, and you’ll have a chance to enjoy many more tomorrows.
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