How quickly you lift weights tells how long you will live

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strength training
Lifting weights quickly prolongs life

Ability to lift weights quickly is linked to a longer life, says a new study

Prolong your life by increasing your muscle power is the message of a study presented at EuroPrevent 2019, a congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

“Rising from a chair in old age and kicking a ball depend more on muscle power than muscle strength, yet most weight bearing exercise focuses on the latter,” said study author Professor Claudio Gil Araújo, director of research and education, Exercise Medicine Clinic – CLINIMEX, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “Our study shows for the first time that people with more muscle power tend to live longer.”

Power is the measure of the work performed per unit time (force times distance); more power is produced when the same amount of work is completed in a shorter period or when more work is performed during the same period. Climbing stairs requires power – the faster you climb, the more power you need. Holding or pushing a heavy object (for example a car with a dead battery) needs strength. Muscle power gradually decreases after 40 years of age.

Professor Araújo said: “Power training is carried out by finding the best combination of speed and weight being lifted or moved. For strength training at the gym most people just think about the amount of weight being lifted and the number of repetitions without paying attention to the speed of execution. But for optimal power training results, you should go beyond typical strength training and add speed to your weight lifts.”

Professor Araújo noted that this is the first time the prognostic value of muscle power has been assessed. Previous research has focused on muscle strength, primarily using the handgrip exercise

The study enrolled 3,878 non-athletes aged 41-85 years who underwent a maximal muscle power test between 2001 and 2016. The average age of participants was 59 years, 5% were over 80, and 68% were men. The highest value achieved after two or three attempts with increasing loads was considered the maximal muscle power and expressed relative to body weight (i.e. power per kg of body weight). Values were divided into quartiles for survival analysis and analysed separately by sex.

During a median 6.5-year follow-up, 247 men (10%) and 75 women (6%) died. Median power values were 2.5 watts/kg for men and 1.4 watts/kg for women. Participants with a maximal muscle power above the median for their sex (i.e. in quartiles three and four) had the best survival. Those in quartiles two and one had, respectively, a 4-5 and 10-13 times higher risk of dying as compared to those above the median in maximal muscle power.

Professor Araújo noted that this is the first time the prognostic value of muscle power has been assessed. Previous research has focused on muscle strength, primarily using the handgrip exercise.

How to train to increase your muscle power:

  • Choose multiple exercises for the upper and lower body

  • Choose a weight with the load to achieve the maximal power (not so easy to lift and not so heavy that you can barely lift it)

  • Do one to three sets of six to eight repetitions moving the weight as fast as possible while you contract your muscles (slow or natural speed in returning to initial position)

  • Rest for 20 seconds between each set to sufficiently replenish the energy stores in your muscles to start the new set

  • Repeat the above for the other exercises (biceps curl, etc.).