Photo Credit: Viridiana Villa
Have you seen a body type that tends to have more muscle on top that is disproportional to the rest of the body? Have you ever had to tell a friend that they need to hit the squat rack more often? If so, you may be onto something. Research is proving that those who have a stronger lower body tend to live longer. This doesn’t mean huge amount of muscle on the body either!
It’s more about how strong that muscle is. The older we get, balance and leg strength are things that we need to consistently work on before we find ourselves injured and no longer independent. There have been quite a few studies done on leg strength and mortality that show the importance of always keeping your body active.
Strength is Key! Not Muscle Mass.
A study called the Health ABC was published in 2006 that measured how body composition changes when the risk of poor health outcomes. It had over 2,000 participants using male and female participants between the ages of 70-79 years old. The study ran several tests over time including consistent tests on grip strength and quadriceps strength. Results showed that strength and morality did not depend upon illness but in fact, illness plagued on those who weren’t as strong as others in the same age group. Both strength tests proved that the weaker you were in strength, the closer you were to mortality (Newman, etc. 20016). Amount of muscle made no difference in the rate of mortality.
There was another study conducted on 1280 men and women who were 55 years old and older. The purpose of this study was to see if muscle mass, leg strength and fat mass were associated with physical function (Bouchard, Heroux & Janssen, 2011). They determined that leg strength was the most important factor when it came to physical function and mortality.
Leg Strength Knows No Gender
According to this next study, strength knows no gender! A study conducted in Finland wanted to find out if physical activity can ultimately compensate for a longer life. This study was followed up for 10 years and followed a few hundred elderly people to see how active they lived their lives. We hear and see everywhere that living a fit lifestyle can give you some more years at the later span of your lifetime. The results showed just that! Mortality was lower in those who were physically active than those who were living more sedentary lives. The study also concluded that there was no difference in morality considering the participant either male or female (Portegijs, etc, 2007). Even though women scored a little lower in strength, it made no difference in showing if a man or woman would live longer.
Practice at Home!
If these studies have you curious about a way you can test your strength, try the Sitting-Rising Test. It’s easy to manipulate at home or in the gym and works off a point system.
Dr. Claudio Araujo, a specialist in exercise and sports medicine has worked with patients that have cardiac issues. He realized that many of his patients could be active, i.e. walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike, but he also realized that many of them had difficulty with everyday activities. This included getting out of bed, tying their shoelaces and getting dressed.
Here’s how it works. You cross your legs and sit down on the ground. Sitting down equals to five (5) points and coming back is equivalent. You want to get as close to ten (10) points as possible! You lose a point when you need to use a hand or knee to help yourself down and lose half of a point every time you lose your balance. This test will show you how coordinated, balanced and strong you really are. All which are important to living a longer life.
Spend Time Now to Save Time for Later
You may be asking yourself, “Why should I spend the time now?” The results show that it’s important to stay healthy and build some strength within your muscles. Your body is the vessel that takes you everywhere you need to go and supports you without question. If we don’t take care of our vessels and don’t give ourselves the nutrients we need, we are asking for a shorter life. With all this evidence, what’s stopping you from getting up and doing something right now?
WHATEVER YOUR HANDS FIND TO DO,
DO IT WITH #ALLYOURMIGHT
Bouchard, D. R., Héroux, M., & Janssen, I. (2011). Association Between Muscle Mass, Leg Strength, and Fat Mass With Physical Function in Older Adults: Influence of Age and Sex. Journal of Aging and Health, 23(2), 313-328. doi:10.1177/0898264310388562
Kruse, R. L., LeMaster, J. W., & Madsen, R. W. (2010). Fall and Balance Outcomes After an Intervention to Promote Leg Strength, Balance, and Walking in People With Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: "Feet First" Randomized Controlled Trial.Physical Therapy, 90(11), 1568-1579. doi:10.2522/ptj.20090362
Kuh, D., Bassey, E. J., Butterworth, S., Hardy, R., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2005). Grip Strength, Postural Control, and Functional Leg Power in a Representative Cohort of British Men and Women: Associations With Physical Activity, Health Status, and Socioeconomic Conditions. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 60(2), 224-231.
Ling, C. H., Craen, A. J., Slagboom, P. E., Westendorp, R. G., & Maier, A. B. (2012). Handgrip strength at midlife and familial longevity. Age, 34, 1261-1268. doi:10.1007/s11357-011-9295-4
Newman, Anne B., et al. "Strength, but not muscle mass, is associated with mortality in the health, aging and body composition study cohort." The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 61.1 (2006): 72-77.
Portegijs, E., et al. "Physical Activity Compensates for Increased Mortality Risk among Older People with Poor Muscle Strength." Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 17.5 (2007): 473-9.
Takata, Y., Ansai, T., Akifusa, S., Soh, I., Yoshitake, Y., Kimura, Y., . . . Takehara, T. (2007). Physical Fitness and 4Year Mortality in an 80YearOld Population.Journal of Gerontology, 62(8), 851-858.
About the Author:
Ashley Harris is a Nutrition Coach
& Director of Give Me My Body Back Lifestyle Coaching.