Contrary to popular belief that muscle strength is what matters, researchers have found that the ability to lift weights swiftly may be more crucial for a prolonged life.
Brazilian scientists reported in a study presented at EuroPrevent 2019 that increasing muscle power is what matters more, compared to muscle strength, when it comes to promoting a longer life.
Some people might take muscle power and muscle strength to be somewhat synonymous, but they mean different things. Power is a measure of work carried out per unit of time. Strength, on the other hand, measures the amount of force exerted by the muscle in a single effort.
For example, the faster you climb stairs, the more power you will require. Strength, however, is what you need when trying to push or carry a heavy object.
The current study is the first to show that people who have more power may live longer. Earlier research had focused on the role of muscle strength.
“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 Professor Claudio Gil Araujo, the study author.
According to the researchers, regular strength training will not be sufficient for boosting power. Speed will need to be added.
Muscle power and longer life
For this study, researchers at Exercise Medicine Clinic – CLINIMEX in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil recruited almost 3,900 adult subjects. The individuals, who were non-athletes, fell within the age range of 41 to 85 years and had an average age of 59 years.
The maximal muscle power of these subjects was assessed, with the aid of the upright row exercise, in the period from 2001 to 2016. This referred to the highest reading attained after 2-3 attempts with increasing loads.
Researchers expressed maximal muscle power relative to body weight. They divided the values obtained into quartiles for the purpose of survival analysis, according to gender.
The upright row exercise reflects a common action that older people perform. This informed the decision to use it for this study, the Brazilian scientists said.
Findings showed that subjects whose maximal muscle power was higher than the median reading for their gender lived longer. Conversely, those with power values lower than the median had a greater risk of dying.
Participants who fell in quartile one, the lowest, exhibited the greatest risk of dying.
Improving muscle power
According to researchers, muscle power declines slowly after the age of 40. Power training can help to reduce this drop, and older people do not need to do too much of it.
“We now show that power is strongly related to all-cause mortality,” said Professor Araujo. “But the good news is that you only need to be above the median for your sex to have the best survival, with no further benefit in becoming even more powerful.”
The director of research and education at Exercise Medicine Clinic – CLINIMEX said that power training depends on a combination of optimal speed and weightlifting.
In a release published by Science Daily, the researchers encouraged choosing a weight that is neither too easy nor hard to lift to do power training. You should aim to do 6-8 repetitions of moving or lifting the weight as quickly as possible. Do 1-3 sets of these repetitions, resting for 20 seconds after each set.
The researchers want doctors to consider assessing muscle power in patients and recommend power training.
Professor Araujo and his team are currently trying to establish a possible link between muscle power and certain disorders that often result in death among older people. These conditions include cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Ability to lift weights quickly can mean a longer life — ScienceDaily (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190412085247.htm)