Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

about us





Strong men live longer

The more weight men can shift with bench presses and the leg press, the longer their life expectancy. Muscle strength protects, especially against cancer, a team of Swedish and American health scientists discovered.

According to a dozen or so studies, muscle strength reduces the chance of death. The stronger people are, the longer their life expectancy. The problem with the studies is that the scientists mostly tested the muscle strength of their subjects by getting them to squeeze hand grips. What's more, hardly any of the studies included people over sixty.

The researchers tried to fill in the knowledge gap by referring to a study of nine thousand fit American males whose muscle strength had been measured by the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas in the eighties. The Cooper Clinic measured how many kilograms the men could shift with bench presses and leg presses, and used the data to divide the men into little body strength (lower), normal body strength (middle) or lots of body strength (upper). The researchers monitored the men until 2003 and noted how many of them died in that period. Most of the men did regular weight training.

The figure below shows that the men with more physical strength were at less risk of dying. Among the strong men, the chance of dying from cancer in particular was lower.

Strong men live longer

You look at relative chances. Men with high physical strength are 33 percent less likely to die of cancer than men with little physical strength.

The figures above are corrected for "physical activity, current smoking, alcohol intake, body mass index, baseline medical conditions, family history of cardiovascular disease, and cardiorespiratory fitness". So strength itself protects. Therefore it's not the case that because strong men exercise more often they have healthier cardiovascular systems and therefore are less likely to die.

When the researchers divided up the data they saw that physical strength is a protective factor among the sixty plus group, and not among the men younger than sixty.

Strong men live longer

When the scientists divided up the group on the basis of BMI, they saw that fat men are also protected by physical strength.

"These results have important implications for public health", they write. "It might be possible to reduce all causes of mortality among men by promoting regular resistance training involving the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body two or three days a week."

But weight training shouldn't replace running or cardio training, the researchers think you need to do both.

BMJ. 2008 Jul 1;337:a439. doi: 10.1136/bmj.a439.