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Want to avoid an early grave? Try 30 minutes of squats every week

 

A spot of gardening at the weekend is just as good for longevity as doing hundreds of push-ups, sit-ups or squats, research suggests.

Experts found doing between 30 and 60 minutes of strength training per week staves off an early death by up to a fifth.  

This could include lifting weights or using our bodyweight and resistance bands. 

With the average adult capable of 10 push-ups per minute, that would involve at least 300 per week.   

But the researchers also found that heavy gardening that involves digging and shovelling was just as beneficial.  

Keeping bones and muscles healthy in our senior years is crucial in preventing a host of illnesses and diseases and can even slow down ageing. 

The latest research was done by academics at Tohoku University in Japan, who reviewed more than a dozen international studies. 

Results showed doing between 30-60 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity per week lowered the risk of dying by up to 20 per cent. 

Such muscle-building activities can include squats, push-ups and sit-ups, as well as digging and shovelling in the garden. 

Tohoku University experts say the benefits are even greater when looking specifically at at the risk of death from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. 

DON’T LIKE GARDENING? WAYS TO TURN EVERYDAY CHORES INTO MINI WORKOUTS

Hoover power lunges

Turn this mundane chore into the ultimate leg-burning exercise by performing lunges as you vacuum. 

To perform them:

As you step forward, bend both knees, lowering until the front one is at a 90 degree angle and the back knee is an inch off the floor.  

Push off on both legs and step through, lifting your back leg and bringing it forward so your rear foot lands ahead of you in a lunge position.

The sweep-up press-up

Use the time between sweeping the floor and collecting debris in your dustpan to strengthen your upper body and core.

To perform them:

Make sure both hands are empty as you bend down and get on all fours, keeping your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.  

Straighten your arms and legs and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.

Pause, then push yourself back up.

Repeat. If these are too difficult, try going on your hands and knees instead.

Washing squats

Hanging up the washing can be a workout in itself, especially if you’ve got a big family.

But these are perfect if you want to add an extra layer of difficulty. 

To perform them:

While emptying the washing machine, squat as low to the ground as you can with good form.

This involves keeping feet shoulder width apart, your back straight, and sitting down into your bottom. 

Only use your hands to collect the clothes and try not hold on to any surfaces, which will make the exercise too easy.  

However, the authors said there was ‘no conclusive evidence’ that going beyond an hour of muscle-strengthening activity reduced the risk any further.  

But they said combining muscle strengthening and cardio exercise may increase the protective benefit. 

Brits are already encouraged to undertake muscle strengthening activity as part of a regular exercise regime. 

The NHS recommends people do muscle-strengthening activities two days a week, in addition to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, like brisk walking.  

Previous research has indicated muscle strengthening was associated with lower death risk — the team of Japanese experts wanted to find out what the potential ‘optimal dose’ might be. 

In order to do so, the experts reviewed 16 studies on the potential life-extending benefits of muscle strengthening.

All of the academic papers followed adults with no prior major health issues for at least two years. 

Most of the studies were from the US, with the remainder from the UK, Australia, and Japan.

The longest study went on for 25 years, and the sample size of the research varied between 4,000 to nearly 480,000 people.

All of the studies also accounted for aerobic or other types of physical activity the participants were doing, as well as muscle strengthening activity.   

Analysis of the data showed adults who did at least 30 minutes a week had between a 10-20 per cent lower risk of death over the study time-frame.

However, no risk reduction was found for some specific types of cancer including bowel cancer and kidney cancer, as well as cancer of the bladder or pancreas.

When looking at deaths related to diabetes, muscle strengthening activity up to an hour per week was found to largely reduce the risk of death. But the benefits started to taper off after the 60-minute mark. 

The authors also highlighted the benefits were greatest when muscle strengthening was combined with 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise.

This resulted in a death risk reduction of 40 per cent from any cause, 46 per cent for cardiovascular disease, and 28 per cent for cancer. 

The results were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.   

Lead author Dr Haruki Momma claimed the findings indicating the potential health benefits of combing weight and aerobic exercise. 

‘The combination of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities may provide a greater benefit for reducing all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and total cancer mortality,’ he said. 

However, Dr Momma added that the current data is limited and further studies on more diverse populations than the ones the team analysed were needed to increase the certainty of the evidence.  

The diversity of the data was one of the limitations in the analysis that the authors acknowledged. 

Of the 16 studies only a few of each were applicable to each of the causes of death analysed in the review, meaning the findings should be treated with caution.

Secondly, the authors also acknowledged the studies were based on participants self-reporting their exercise levels which could be unreliable.

Lastly, the authors also highlighted that the majority of the studies were from US meaning the findings may not be as applicable to other populations.

The researchers acknowledge certain limitations to their findings, the main one of which was that data from only a few studies were pooled for each of the outcomes studied. The included studies also relied on subjective assessment of muscle strengthening activities. 

HOW MUCH EXERCISE YOU NEED? 

To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS