strength-training

This exercise could help you live longer – and there's not a treadmill in sight

Let's get physical, physical…

Carla Challis

There's something to be said for that rush of endorphins we feel after a good gym session or fitness class, it feels pretty amazing. But there could be an exercise you're missing out on that's actually the key to living longer – and it's much easier than a spin class. New research suggests that weight training might help to increase your life expectancy. According to research by the University of Michigan, having strong muscles has a direct effect on how long you live – and that it's your hand strength that's most important.

The researchers found that hand grip strength declines as we age, and it's your hands that are important for being able to live independently as we get older, from dressing ourselves to cooking to making a cup of tea. However, it's not a measure that's regularly tested in routine examinations but can be an indication of the person's overall strength. Plus, it's relatively easy to measure – the patient squeezes a dynamometer which measures their strength in kilograms. "Having hand grip strength be an integral part of routine care would allow for earlier interventions, which could lead to increased longevity and independence for individuals," said Dr Kate Duchowny, lead author of the study. "Maintaining muscle strength throughout life – especially in later life – is extremely important for longevity and ageing independently."

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If you want to work on your strength training at home, it's pretty straight forward. All you need is a set of dumbbells (can be bought online) and you can do some lifting in your living room – look for online tutorials for strength training routines for beginners that incorporates exercises like deadlifts, bicep curls and side lunges with dumbbells. Start off light and build your way up and if in doubt, seek the advice of a professional before you get started. Annabelle Breakenridge, head trainer at F45 Peckham Rye, added: "Lifting weights strengthens the density of our bones over time; making us less likely to suffer breaks or fractures as we age. It increases our muscle mass, which tends to decline naturally as we age and the benefits go far beyond just building more lean muscle, it allows us to protect our joints, maintaining better mobility, flexibility and balance in our everyday life."

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