Running vs weights - what's better for longevity? | Blackmores

Running vs weights: Which is better for longevity?

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If you exercise to live longer, does the type of activity you choose make a difference? Exercise physiologist Andrew Cate investigates the latest research.

Exercise and longevity

It will come as no surprise that physical activity contributes to a longer lifespan. It’s key as a preventative health measure and it increases your physical capacity and quality of life as well. 

In addition, physical activity may help to offset the harmful effects of prolonged sitting, which has become a feature of modern life. 

How is longevity measured?

One helpful measure of longevity and cellular function is thought to be telomere length. 

A telomere is part of each cells structure, and the shortening of telomeres is a key cellular process of aging. 

It’s thought moderate levels of physical activity may reduce telomere shortening, indicating an important cellular adaptation that may prevent age-related changes in health. Previous research has shown that twins with a higher level of physical activity exhibit longer telomeres in middle age compared with inactive siblings. We are also learning more about the specific types of exercise which are best at adding years to your life. 

Running, weights and telomere length

A study published in the European Heart Journal compared the life extending benefits of running, interval training and resistance training on telemore length. 

The researchers discovered that telomere length increased through endurance training and high-intensity interval training, but not after resistance training. 

The study authors concluded that in middle-aged subjects who start a new program of exercise, completing a training programme of moderate or intensive endurance training can lead to potent anti-aging effects. They also noted this could expect to bring beneficial effects on cardiovascular health in the long term.

 

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Putting it into practise

Physical activity is an important piece in the longevity jigsaw puzzle, and \more often than not any level of movement has value. 

However, as the research from the study above reveals, if longevity is your focus there are particular activities that it may be helpful.

Run regularly

Cardiovascular activities such as running may help our cells remain younger for longer. 

Study participants trained three times each week for 6 months. The endurance training consisted of 45 minutes of continuous running at 60% heart rate capacity.

Avoid running on consecutive days to allow your body to repair and recover.

Include interval training

Interval training also appears to offer benefits for longevity.

The interval trainers exercised for 45 minutes three times a week just as the endurance group did. However, they performed a series of four, 4 minutes high intensity runs / sprints at 80-90% heart rate capacity followed by active rest in between, along with a warm up and cool down.

It’s generally accepted that you should not participate in interval training until you have built a solid foundation of fitness over a month or two.

Still lift weights

While strength training didn’t compare as well as running in this study, it still offers a wide range of health benefits. This may include improved bone density, reduced body fat, healthy blood pressure and improved blood sugar management.

The researchers did note that resistance exercise should be complimentary to endurance training, but not a substitute.