MUSCLE STRENGTHENING: 1 hour a week is enough to reduce the risk of death by 20%

Between 30 and 60 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity each week is not only associated with a significantly reduced risk of death, but more broadly contributes to lowering the risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. A surprising point of this analysis: it identifies no conclusive evidence that more than 1 hour per week brings additional benefits.

Muscle building, an essential complement to aerobic exercise

Physical activity guidelines recommend regular muscle-strengthening activities (such as lifting weights, working out with resistance bands, doing push-ups, sit-ups, and squats) with well-documented benefits for skeletal muscle health . Previous research indicates that muscle-strengthening activity is associated with a lower risk of death, but until this meta-analysis, the exact “optimal dose” was not known.

1 hour per week is “enough”: this review of the literature through the major databases of relevant prospective observational studies including adults without major health problems followed for at least 2 years, i.e. ultimately 16 studies each conducted with 4,000 to nearly 480,000 participants, between the ages of 18 and 97, confirms that:

  • muscle-strengthening exercises are associated with a 10-17% reduced risk of death;
  • also reduced risk of death from heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes and lung cancer;
  • no association is identified between muscle building and a reduced risk of specific types of cancer, including those of the intestine, kidney, bladder or pancreas;
  • the association is J-shaped with a maximum risk reduction of 10-20% with approximately 30-60 minutes/week of muscle-strengthening activities for all-cause death, cardiovascular disease, and all cancers;
  • the association is L-shaped however for diabetes, with a significant reduction in risk up to 60 minutes/week of muscle-strengthening activities, after which the decline in benefit is gradual;
  • the reduced risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease and cancer is even greater when the 2 types of activity, muscle strengthening and aerobic, are combined.

The limitations to these conclusions likely lie in the types of muscle-strengthening activity performed, however the combination of strength and aerobic exercise appears to offer, unsurprisingly, the greatest benefit in terms of reducing deaths.

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