Bodyweight Exercises for a Longer Life

Bodyweight exercises are not just about developing killer abs and massive guns, they can also be used to increase quality of life and lower the risk of premature death. According to a new study from the University of Sydney, traditional exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups can reduce the risk of premature death just as much as gym-based weight training routines. The simplicity of bodyweight exercises makes them an attractive option for many people, with this inexpensive and accessible form of fitness found to reduce cancer-related deaths at a higher rate than aerobic exercise.

In the exhaustive study, over 80,000 adults in England and Scotland over 30 years of age were studied between 1994 and 2008, along with a follow up period averaging nine years. At the end of the follow up period, the risk of death of each participant was measured according to the amount of strength-promoting exercise they performed. Results were adjusted according to the age, sex, health status, and behaviour of participants, including lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, diet, education level, mental health, and participation in cardio and other physical activities.

According to Emmanuel Stamatakis, Associate Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Health Behaviours at the University of Sydney, "Those who reported participation in any strength-promoting exercise (including gym workouts) averaged about 60 minutes a week and those who reported any own body weight exercises averaged 50 minutes a week. Participation in either gym workouts or own body weight exercises reduced the risk of early death by about 20%. Cancer-related deaths also decreased by 24-27%, but there was little evidence more was better."

The study compared being inactive to both aerobic and strength-related exercise, with different results found for different types of activity. While cardio and strength training were both associated with a decreased risk of death, the risk of dying from specific diseases changed depending on the type of activity performed. According to Stamatakis, "We also compared the risk of those who met the recommendation of two sessions of strength-promoting exercise per week, with those who met the recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity such as walking (or 75 minutes more intense, such as running) per week. Compared to being inactive, meeting either guideline was associated with a 16-18% reduction in risk of early death."

Interestingly, bodyweight exercises and other strength-promoting workouts were found to be much better at reducing the risk of cancer than aerobic physical activities such as walking or running, with cardio workouts better at reducing the risk of heart disease. "But the results on cancer death risk told us a very different story. Those who met only the strength-promoting guideline by doing body weight exercises had a 31% lower risk of death from cancer. Those who met only the aerobic exercise guideline had no reduction in risk of cancer death." said Stamatakis, adding "On the other hand, reducing the risk of death from heart disease was only associated with aerobic physical activity (21% reduction)."


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