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Can being strong help you live longer ?

Written by Patrick Foley


This a great question, but before we delve deeper into this we must understand the meaning of strength, which is the capacity of an object to withstand great force or pressure. With this in mind studies have shown that a decline in skeletal muscle mass, define a sarcopenia happens at a rate 3-8% a decade after the of the age of 30 (Arvandi et al 2016). This links us back to the definition of strength, as studies have shown a positive correlation between muscle mass and muscular strength (Chen 2013). Therefore if we are experiencing a decrease in skeletal muscle mass we may experience a decrease in strength, due to the positive correlation leading, to a decrease in the amount of force and pressure the body can withstand. Could we say that chronic disease or falls ect are an increase pressure upon the body ? I will leave that up to you to decided.


Does muscular strength predict mortality in Humans ?


Well studies have all ready suggested that “Older adults with reduced muscular strength are more likely to have a higher risk of dying” (Newman et al 2006) This is a strong statement ,but data collected has been stating, that low muscular strength has a positive correlation with low body weight, presence of chronic disease, and physical inactivity, which have been suggested to be predictors of mortality.


You may be thinking, by how much can being strong decrease mortality. Well from a study conducted by Fitzgerald et in 2004, where they include 9105 men and women ages between 20-82, looking at individuals with low, medium and high levels of strength based off 1 min sit up test, leg and bench press 1RM scores. Results have proposed that individuals that fell into the medium to high physical fitness group, had a reduction in mortality risk between 35-44%. A statement that reinforces the these findings are the statement by Volaklis et al 2015, which states that muscular strength is inversely and indirectly associated with all cause mortality.


How do we increase our strength ?

Studies have suggested that training frequency plays a larger role in strength gain. A systematic review conducted by Grgic et al 2018 stated that there is a dose repose relationship between training frequency and strength, showing that if we train more then we have a greater chance of increasing muscular strength. You may be thinking now, how many times is best ? well a study conducted by Serra R et al 2015 delved into this and suggested from his findings, that participating in 2-4 resistance training sessions per week yielded a significant increase in muscular strength.


In conclusion to the above question does increase strength decrease mortality, the studies have stated yes, being stronger can decrease mortality up to 35-44%, increasing your current training frequency between 2-4 sessions per week will produce greater strength gains assisting you toward decreasing mortality. This can vary from person to person and we would advise to seek professional guidance when embarking on a strength training regime.


References:

  1. Grgic, J. et al. (2018) “Effect of resistance training frequency on gains in muscular strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Sports Medicine, 48(5), pp. 1207–1220. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-0872-x.

  2. Arvandi, M. et al. (2016) “Gender differences in the association between grip strength and mortality in older adults: Results from the kora-age study,” BMC Geriatrics, 16(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-016-0381-4.

  3. Newman, A.B. et al. (2006) “Strength, but not muscle mass, is associated with mortality in the health, aging and body composition study cohort,” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 61(1), pp. 72–77. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/61.1.72.

  4. Chen, L. et al. (2013) “Relationship between muscle mass and muscle strength, and the impact of Comorbidities: A population-based, cross-sectional study of older adults in the United States,” BMC Geriatrics, 13(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2318-13-74.

  5. FitzGerald, S.J. et al. (2004) “Muscular fitness and all-cause mortality: Prospective observations,” Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 1(1), pp. 7–18. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.1.1.7.

  6. Volaklis, K.A., Halle, M. and Meisinger, C. (2015) “Muscular strength as a strong predictor of mortality: A narrative review,” European Journal of Internal Medicine, 26(5), pp. 303–310. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2015.04.013.

  7. Serra, R.S. et al. (2015) “he Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Strength Gains,” Journal of Exercise Physiology online, 18.

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