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Strength training enhances longevity of senior citizens

Regular strength training can increase the lifespan of elderly people besides cutting the risk of chronic diseases, finds a new study.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 23, 2016 10:02 IST
Strength training can benefit those suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, low back pain and obesity.
Strength training can benefit those suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, low back pain and obesity.(Shutterstock)

Regular strength training can increase the lifespan of elderly people besides cutting the risk of chronic diseases, finds a new study.

Smaller studies have earlier established that strength training can benefit those suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, low back pain and obesity, and that greater amounts of muscle strength are associated with lower risk of death. This new study, however, is the first to show an association between strength training and a lower risk of mortality in such a large, nationally representative sample and over such a long period of time.

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Carried out by a team from Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Columbia University, the researchers looked at data from the 1997-2001 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included data on the health of more than 30,000 adults age 65 and older from every US state.

From this data the team found that more than 9% of older adults reported strength training at least twice a week, only a small part of the population, but still higher than the team had expected.

Greater muscle strength is associated with lower risk of death. (Shutterstock)

The researchers then followed this group for 15 years, using information from death certificate data to find out who had died by 2011. The team found that when compared to those who didn’t strength train, those who strength trained at least twice a week had a 41% lower risk of cardiac death, 19% lower risk of dying from cancer, and a 46% lower risk of death for any health reason.

The results also suggested that those who reported taking part in strength exercises also enjoyed a greater mortality benefit than those who reported taking part in physical activity alone.

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The team believe that their results suggest that strength training has added benefits beyond just simply improving muscle strength, muscle mass and physical function, with Jennifer L. Kraschnewski from Penn State College of Medicine commenting that, “We need to identify more ways that we can help get people engaged in strength training so we can increase the number from just under 10 percent to a much higher percentage of our older adults who are engaged in these activities.”

The study’s findings can be found online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

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