Weightlifting vs. Aerobics
The best workout types for better health and longevity
Welcome back to Age Wise, exploring the science of improving physical health and mental wellness at every stage of life. Never have I wondered if weightlifting or other forms of strength training were good for me, but I’ve long been curious whether the long-term benefits to health and longevity are similar to aerobic workouts, or if one was distinctly better than the other.
The answer is in, based on multiple recent studies.
Here are the latest findings, from a study rooted in a decade’s worth of data on people who were 71 years old on average at the start of the monitoring:
Working out with weights was linked to a 9% to 22% lower risk of death compared to sedentary individuals (the range relates to frequency of working out, with one or two sessions per week bringing a 14% lower risk, for example).
Aerobic activity without weight was linked to a 24% to 34% lower risk of death compared to the sedentary group.
The risk of death was 41% to 47% lower among those who met most of the minimum recommended guidelines for aerobic activity and worked out with weights once or twice a week.
The conclusion: Do both! I’d be surprised if a study of younger adults didn’t yield the same result. In fact…
Earlier this year a different group of researchers published a review of studies on muscle-strengthening workouts in adults of all ages, finding that 30 to 60 minutes of it is linked to a 10–20% lower risk of death from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and all causes.
Two other studies this year have found weight training a) promotes good sleep, and b) overweight people who cut calories can lose weight with weightlifting on par with aerobic exercise.
The takeaway: If you’re age 30 or older and you’re not working to build muscle, you are losing muscle. By age 70, 40% of the muscle you once had will be shriveled up and gone. But if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that you can build muscle at any age, period.
So I asked the leader of the new study—Jessica Gorzelitz, a certified trainer, weightlifter, powerlifter and scientist—what we should all be doing:
All adults should aim for at least the minimum recommended threshold of 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, somewhere between “conversation is easy” and “you can hear your breathing but you’re not out of breath,” or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, plus a couple days a week of muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity, said Gorzelitz, an assistant professor of health promotion at the University of Iowa.
You can read more detail in my full story on Medium.
Need ideas for strength building beyond the gym? Plenty of them in my No-Excuses Guide to Physical Activity.
Your support makes my health reporting and writing possible, so please consider forwarding this to a friend, and I won’t complain if you buy me a cup of coffee. Meanwhile, I’m busy finishing up my new book, “Make Sleep Your Superpower,” due out coming Nov. 1 (Learn more on my website).