November 1, 2017
University of Sydney
Push ups and sit ups could add years to your life
according to a new study of over 80,000 adults.
Push ups and sit ups could add years to your life according to a new study
of over 80,000 adults led by the University of Sydney.
The largest study to compare the mortality outcomes of different types of
exercise found people who did strength-based exercise had a 23 percent
reduction in risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 percent reduction
in cancer-related death.
Lead author Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the School of
Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre said while strength training has
been given some attention for functional benefits as we age, little research
has looked at its impact on mortality.
“The study shows exercise that promotes muscular strength may be just
as important for health as aerobic activities like jogging or cycling,”
said Associate Professor Stamatakis.
“And assuming our findings reflect cause and effect relationships, it
may be even more vital when it comes to reducing risk of death from
The World Health Organization’s Physical Activity Guidelines for adults
recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity, plus two days of muscle
strengthening activities each week.
Associate Professor Stamatakis said governments and public health
authorities have neglected to promote strength-based guidelines in the
community, and as such misrepresented how active we are as a nation.
He cites the example of The Australian National Nutrition and Physical
Activity Survey which, based on aerobic activity alone, reports inactivity at
53 percent. However, when the World Health Organization’s (WHO) strength-based
guidelines are also taken into account, 85 percent of Australians fail to meet
“Unfortunately, less than 19 percent of Australian adults do the
recommended amount of strength-based exercise,” said Associate Professor
“Our message to date has just been to get moving but this study
prompts a rethink about, when appropriate, expanding the kinds of exercise we
are encouraging for long-term health and wellbeing.”
The analysis also showed exercises performed using one’s own body weight
without specific equipment were just as effective as gym-based training.
“When people think of strength training they instantly think of doing
weights in a gym, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
“Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs or the culture they
promote, so it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like
triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park and
potentially reap the same health benefits.”
The research, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology
today, is based on a pooled population sample of over 80,306 adults with data
drawn from the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey, linked with
the NHS Central Mortality Register.
The study was observational, however adjustments were made to reduce the
influence of other factors such as age, sex, health status, lifestyle
behaviours and education level. All participants with established cardiovascular
disease or cancer at baseline and those who passed away in the first two years
of follow up were excluded from the study to reduce the possibility of skewing
results due to those with pre-existing conditions participating in less
Summary of key findings:
any strength-promoting exercise was associated with a 23 percent reduction in
all-cause mortality and a 31 percent reduction in cancer mortality
exercises that can be performed in any setting without equipment yielded
comparable results to gym-based activities
WHO’s strength-promoting exercise guideline alone was associated with reduced
risk of cancer-related death, but adherence to the WHO’s aerobic physical
activity guideline alone was not
WHO’s strength-promoting exercise and aerobic guidelines combined was
associated with a greater risk reduction in mortality than aerobic physical
there was no
evidence of an association between strength-promoting exercise and cardiovascular
Stamatakis, I-Min Lee, Jason Bennie, Jonathan Freeston, Mark Hamer, Gary
O’Donovan, Ding Ding, Adrian Bauman, Yorgi Mavros. Does strength promoting
exercise confer unique health benefits? A pooled analysis of eleven population
cohorts with all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality endpoints. American
Journal of Epidemiology, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwx345