Most of us are probably familiar with the idea that exercise, along with a healthy diet and sleep, is the best medicine. I personally have an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mindset when it comes to working out, since I’m comfortable with my exercise routine and it seems to work well for me. But it turns out that mixing things up and making my workouts a little bit more intense could actually do wonders down the road. New research suggests that muscle strength exercises could help lower the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer.
A recent review of studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at the connection between muscle-strengthening physical activities and chronic disease risk in adults. Physical activities that can boost muscle health include weight-lifting, sit-ups, and squats. Heavy gardening tasks such as digging and shoveling can also help protect muscle mass.
Researchers sourced prospective observational studies from databases like MEDLINE and Embase that examined the health outcomes of doing muscle strengthening exercises. The number of participants in the studies ranged from roughly 4,000 to 480,000, and all of them were adults between 18 and 97 years old who were monitored for at least two years and had no major health conditions. The research from these studies was conducted mostly in the US, but some was also done in England, Japan, Scotland, and Australia.
Researchers found that muscle-strengthening activities led to a 17 percent decrease in heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes among study participants — though they added that there wasn’t a reduced risk of any one specific type of cancer. Moreover, there was a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of these diseases when participants did about 30 to 60 minutes of this type of exercise every week. Researchers concluded that weekly muscle strength exercises may help people avoid developing a chronic disease.
Beyond this long-term health benefit, muscle-strengthening workouts have also been linked to improving sleep quality and fighting bone loss.
Want to get in on the possible benefits? Start by setting aside a half hour one day this week to try out this simple workout for women over 50 that’s designed to help you lose fat and build muscle. Your body will thank you later!
I, for one, will surely be adding some muscle strength exercises into my weekly workout routine. After all, I’d rather break a sweat now than worry about serious health issues later.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.