Muscular Strength and Longevity

Two recent studies published in the British Medical Journal (here and here) reveal that muscular strength is a remarkably strong predictor of mortality — even after adjusting for cardiovascular fitness and other health factors.

This conclusion was reached after an analysis of over 30 studies that recorded physical attributes such as bench press strength, grip strength, walking speed, chair rising speed, and standing balance. What the researchers found was that poor performance on any of the tests was associated with higher all-cause mortality — anywhere from a 1.67 to a threefold increase in the likelihood of earlier mortality. The study primarily looked at people over the age of 70, although five included people under 60; but across all ages, poor physical performance was associated with increased mortality. On average, people in the strongest quintile could look forward to a life expectancy six to seven years longer than those in the weakest quintile.

Now, here’s the good news: To a non-trivial degree, and despite the inexorable effects of aging, physical strength is an attribute we can control. As the science is increasingly showing, resistance training can literally add years to your life — and the earlier you get to it, the better.

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