4 Ways Strength Training Helps Us Live Longer & Healthier

It’s the fountain of youth.

By: Jessica Migala

If there’s one thing you do for your health today, lift a little bit of weight. Whether that’s free weights, machine weights, or your body weight, strength training brings a bevy of short- and long-term health benefits, and it can also improve body composition, if that’s one of your goals.

But before you break out the weights or drop down for some pushups or squats, we’re sharing why you should consider strength training for longevity in the first place. Ahead, the top four ways strength training helps us improve our health and lifespan, plus how to add it to your workout routine with ease!

4 Ways Strength Training Supports Longevity 

Want the best anti-ager? Here’s why it pays to pick up those weights:

#1 Plummets Your Risk of Disease

Want a way to keep your body healthy throughout the years and out of the doctor’s office? In a meta-analysis of 16 studies in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, doing 30 to 60 minutes per week of muscle-strengthening activities was found to be associated with a decreased risk of dying from any cause, as well as cardiovascular disease, cancer lung, and diabetes.

RELATED: The Anti-Aging Benefits of Exercise, According to Research

#2 Decreases Obesity Risk

Having extreme obesity can shorten your life by as much as 14 years, according to research by the National Institute of Health’s Intramural Research Program. That’s because obesity is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, according to the CDC. But strength training at least twice a week has been shown to cut the risk of obesity by as much as 30 percent compared to people who skipped strength, according to a 2021 study in PLOS Medicine. Resistance exercise boosts your metabolism to burn additional calories over the next 24 hours, preserves metabolically active muscle mass (which burns more calories at rest compared to body fat), and promotes muscle growth, something that also decreases fat mass.

#3 Keeps Your Brain Sharp 

It’s clear: Barbells are good for your brain. Just six months of strength training protected brain areas that are susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease and improved cognitive functioning in study participants who were living with mild cognitive impairment, according to 2020 research. And, those benefits stuck around for a year. Even if you consider yourself sharp as a tack today, know that lifting a little now can help keep you that way.

RELATED: How to Optimize Your Workout Routine For Improved Mental Health

#4 Maintains Your Mood

Resistance training reduced depressive symptoms by 34 percent, according to a meta-analysis of 33 trials and almost 2,000 people. This type of sweat session can also keep your heart healthy, which is vital since heart disease is the leading cause of death in people who have depression, the authors point out. Other research also adds that strength improves anxiety in healthy people and those who have a mental health disorder. Who knew carrying something heavy could lessen mental heaviness? 

RELATED: New Research Shows Just How Powerful Exercise is For Mental Health

How Much Strength Training Should You Do Per Week?

There are guidelines for strength in a physical activity routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises doing muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week, working all the major muscle groups (upper and lower body and core). This is on top of the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise recommended per week. 

Activities that count for strength training, says the CDC include lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing body weight exercises, heavy gardening, and certain types of yoga. Unfortunately, research shows just 23 percent of adults say they lift weights, while 16% say they do so at least weekly.

How to Add Strength Training to Your Workout Routine

The best way to start a new habit–and that includes exercise–is to plan for it. Look at your schedule and see where you can slide in a strength training session on two days in the week. If you’re completely new to resistance exercise, start with 10 minutes and then work up from there.

As the CDC recommends, you’ll make the most of your time if you plan for a full-body day, rather than breaking them up into upper and lower body days. Once you get the hang of strength training, you might then consider adding an extra strength workout or two and do separate upper and lower body days. 

Having a well-planned workout is vital for promoting muscle growth and strength. That’s where following a routine, like one found on the FitOn App, can help teach you exactly what exercises to do and how to do them with good form–so you can train your muscles without causing pain or injury.

Browse the FitOn strength category for workouts to consider when building your strength routine.

Keep Going

Consistency is important — it takes time to build muscle, and optimizing muscle gain also requires a healthy diet with ample protein and good sleep. For the mental and physical benefits, though, it’s totally worth it. Maintaining a regular routine will keep your body and mind young.