A new study by Brazilian researchers has revealed that older people who lift weights in the gym live longer.
The scientists who presented their finding at a congress of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology (EAPC), EuroPrevent 2019, in Portugal, tracked the muscle power of 4,000 people aged between 40 and 85 over the course of six years.
The scientists, however, warned that older people should lift the weights quickly and in moderation, and that they must avoid heavy ones.
The researchers urged doctors to start advising pensioners to take-up power training.
Each participant in the study was assessed for how many times they could lift weights that were gradually getting heavier in the upright row position in a certain time frame.
The upright row position involves the participant holding a weight at hip-height and lifting it up to their shoulders with elbows pointing out.
Experts at the Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro said it was a common movement used in daily life, such as for picking up shopping bags, reported MailOnline.
Researchers found that at a follow-up after six and half years, 247 men (10 per cent) and 75 women (six per cent) had died.
But gym users who lifted the heaviest weights – defined as having the most muscle power – were up to 13 times more at risk of dying.
“Doctors should consider measuring muscle power and advise more power training,” study author, Prof. Claudio Gil Araújo, said.
Muscles get gradually weaker as people age and it is a common contributor to death in people over 40.
The average age of the participants was 59. Five per cent were over 80, and just over two-third were men.
Prof. Araújo said, “Rising from a chair in old age and kicking a ball depends more on muscle power than muscle strength. We now show that power is strongly related to all-cause mortality. But the good news is that you only need to be above the median for your sex to have the best survival, with no further benefit in becoming even more powerful.”
The researchers said the best way to increase muscle power was to choose multiple exercises for the upper and lower body. They advised older people to choose a weight that was not too easy or hard to lift, and to do up to three sets of six to eight repetitions, moving the weight as fast as possible.