Man, wouldn’t it be great if someday, a game changing new study dropped that revealed the best thing for your health is tacos, sleeping late and Seinfeld reruns? Can’t you just imagine? In the infinite multiverse, surely there is a world in which pizza actually gives you abs and laying on the couch scrolling through TikTok adds years to your life. That world must exist out there somewhere. But we’re not it in it. We’re in this one. And in this one, it looks like lifting weights is where it’s at.
This wasn’t a scientific given. Experts have long understood the link between cardio exercise and health, but the health benefits of lifts and gains wasn’t as well understood. Some have even suggested that while getting your heart rate up is good for your body, lifting is more of an aesthetic affair. But The British Journal of Sports Medicine just wrapped a huge study that found we do actually have a lot to gain from making gains …besides just gains. According to the study, even just or two bouts of strength training a week is associated with a lower risk of mortality.
Carver Coleman, a data scientist and one of the authors of the study, told the New York Times that the health benefits between strength training and not strength training are comparable to the benefits between smoking and not smoking.
But the study found that where it’s really at is a healthy mix of both lifting and doing some sort of aerobic or cardio workout. The National Health Interview Survey followed 416,420 American adults from 1997 to 2014, keeping track of their physical activities per week. They adjusted for stuff like age, gender, income, education, marital status and chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and found that just one hour of moderate to intense aerobic activity a week was associated with a 15 percent drop in mortality rate. For people who did at least three hours a week, the drop was 27 percent.
But when you throw in two rounds of strength training in addition to that aerobic exercise, the drop was dramatic: a full 40 percent.
It’s a big deal for exercise scientists, since it’s some of the most robust real data we have on the benefits of lifting. People start to lose muscle mass as early as their 30s, and the more you lose, the more difficult it is to do regular life tasks like yard work, lifting your suitcase into an overhead storage bin or unscrew a jar. Retaining your ability to do these things as you get older doesn’t require you to get in MCU shape. But some light lifts do improve your functionality for basic tasks and, apparently, can help keep you alive a little longer. Pretty cool.
Not as cool as pizza that works like abs though.