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Longevity: What physical activity makes us live longer?

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Longevity: What physical activity makes us live longer?

Some physical activity can reduce the risk of premature death by more than 40%, according to a new study. While others…

Eugene Spagnuolo

– Milano

Living long and in good health depends on many factors, not least physical activity. It is no coincidence that the WHO recommends dedicating at least 150 minutes to moderately intense aerobic activities, such as brisk walking. And it should also be associated with strengthening exercises for the main muscle groups, at least 2 times a week. But is it really so?

The best physical activity for longevity

The answer is… yes, but with some clarifications: a recent study involving almost 100,000 individuals underlines the advantages of this approach. The researchers found that combining weight lifting with cardio (or aerobic) exercise can reduce the risk of premature death among the elderly, particularly for heart disease.

  • Study participants who limited themselves to lifting weights saw their risk of premature death reduced by 9% to 22% (depending on the intensity of the workouts, ed).
  • Those who performed exclusively aerobic exercise saw it decrease by 24% to 34%.
  • But those who did both aerobic and strength training had the best results: Meeting weekly guidelines for aerobic exercise (150 minutes) and lifting weights once or twice a week was able to reduce the risk of premature death by more than 40% (dal 41% al 47%).

Weights + cardio: the winning combination

So the combination of strength exercises plus cardio is the winning one. “We know that muscle-strengthening exercise is associated with a wide range of health benefits, which include increased strength and improved physical function,” explains Jessica Gorzelitz, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute. “We are still uncovering the metabolic effects of weight lifting on the body systems it may affect (mortality rates), but we are confident that this type of exercise may have a beneficial effect on body composition and other metabolic risk factors, such as blood pressure, markers of inflammation and even blood cholesterol.” Another study, released last summer, also found that combining strength training and cardio workouts promotes longevity. The execution 1 to 3 hours per week of aerobic exercise and 1 to 2 strength training sessions would reduce the risk of death by 40%. Conversely, doing only 1 hour of aerobic activity would “only” reduce it by 15% (3 hours by 27%).

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Engaging in both activities is also important for someone trying to lose weight: increasing the amount of lean muscle tissue in the body through strength training counteracts the loss of muscle mass that occurs with weight loss. And it also gives us metabolic benefits, which facilitate weight loss. That’s why, according to scientists, we should do both aerobics and strength training, without neglecting either.

Cardio and strength training: the differences

Cardio and aerobic exercises raise your heart rate and keep it elevated throughout your workout. Vigorous aerobic activities include running, cycling, and swimming. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) combines vigorous aerobic activity with short rest periods. Strength training, also called resistance training, helps build and strengthen muscles. It is a type of activity that involves moving the body against some form of resistance, such as dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, resistance bands, or kettlebells. Bodyweight exercises, such as lunges and push-ups, can also build muscle strength. Regular strength training is especially beneficial for older adultsbecause over the years, muscle mass is gradually lost.

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