Weightlifting will extend your lifespan


Weightlifting is a better exercise than aerobics

Weightlifting has a number of advantages over other forms of exercise, mainly due to the obvious fact that it increases muscle size and strength. Aerobic exercise works the cardiovascular system, but fails to work many of the muscles, and in fact contributes to some extent to muscle loss.

Weightlifting, as I have contended, is the most healthful form of exercise there is: it enhances the brain, prevents and treats sarcopenia, and substantially lowers the death rate of cancer survivors. Muscular strength, which weightlifting of course enhances, is associated with far lower rates of cancer. Weight training has a much better effect on long-term control of waist size than does aerobic activity.

As if all that weren’t enough, weightlifting has a powerful anti-aging effect. Resistance exercise reverses aging in skeletal muscle; it literally made the gene expression profile in the muscles of older people into one more like those seen in young people.

Weightlifting lowers levels of myostatin

One way in which weightlifting increases the size and strength of muscle is by lowering the level of myostatin. Less myostatin means bigger and stronger muscles.

A new study shows that, in mice, less myostatin also means about 15% longer life.

These mice were genetically mutated to have deletions in the myostatin gene. Those that had a total deletion did not have an extended lifespan, but those that had a partial deletion (+/-) did. The mice were also protected from the normal muscle loss seen in aging. As the paper states:

Mouse strains with loss of function in the growth hormone/IGF-1 axis have a smaller body size and enhanced lifespan (Blagosklonny, 2013). The current results are the first to identify a loss of function gene mutation in mice that results in an increase in muscle and body mass along with enhanced longevity. The mechanism behind the increased longevity of MSTN+/− mice is not known, but inhibition of myostatin can reduce systemic inflammatory proteins and body fat.

If we follow that logic, it is not decreased size in itself that contributes to longevity, as for instance in calorie restriction or lower levels of growth hormone and IGF-1. Rather, it may be just decreased body fat that is responsible for longer life in those cases. Interestingly, deletion of the myostatin gene in mice not confers resistance to obesity, but greater insulin sensitivity.

In the new study on mice, the longest lived mice had 30% less myostatin than controls. In humans, a 10-week program of resistance training decreased myostatin levels an average of 20%, although the individual range was from +5.9% to -56.9%. Importantly, IGF-1 levels did not increase.

Weightlifting may increase lifespan

Taken together, all this suggests that weightlifting could be one more method in the armamentarium to increase lifespan. It’s been known for ages that exercise in general prevents disease and increases median lifespan, but new data adds more weight to the notion that weightlifting is the most healthful exercise.

Creatine, leucine, and polyphenols decrease myostatin

Besides weightlifting, there are other ways to decrease myostatin, with creatine and leucine for instance.

Creatine, added to 8 weeks of weightlifting, decreased myostatin substantially more than weightlifting alone. It also turns out that creatine extended lifespan in mice by 9%, and perhaps inhibition of myostatin has something to do with this.

Leucine, one of the branched-chain amino acids, strongly downregulates myostatin. In this in vitro study, expression of myostatin with leucine added to media was around 70% lower than controls. Again, as with creatine, supplementation with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) extends lifespan in mice. The food that is richest in BCAAs is whey protein, which is around 25% BCAAs.

Polyphenols from chocolate and green tea also decrease myostatin considerably. So eat your chocolate and drink your green tea. They’re already proven to be health-promoting, and possibly some of the effect is due to myostatin lowering.

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  1. Joshua says:

    >> “creatine extended lifespan in mice by 9%”
    Ha, this is the best news I’ve seen this month. When I started taking creatine, it was just for the increased strength/muscle effects. Now, the more I learn about it, the more it sounds like it’s actually a pretty good supplement for overall health — extending lifespan, enhancing cognition, and who knows what else. Sweet!

  2. Rob H says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I just found this article on Paul Jaminet’s ‘Perfect Health Diet’ website : https://perfecthealthdiet.com/2015/07/are-bigger-muscles-better-antioxidants-and-the-response-to-exercise/

    I usually find Paul Jaminet a very useful (and highly respected) source: but I am struggling with this one, where he is arguing that muscle-building may not be healthy. In particular, he states: “To see that large muscles may be unhealthy, consider the health condition of cardiomegaly – an enlarged heart. When the heart tissue is dysfunctional and incapable of exerting as much strength as it should, the heart grows larger to compensate. People who have such an oversized but weak heart often die an early death.”

    He then includes two short YouTube videos showing the many bodybuilders who have died of heart-related problems in their 40s and 50s. I know that this is only correlation, not causation, and that many were probably doing steroids too, but even so, it does give one pause for thought. I was wondering: what is your view on the risk of strength training leading to possible cardiomegaly? One of the commenters on Jaminet’s article believes cardiomegaly is linked to high intensity strength training (ie lifting relatively heavy weights, say 6-8 reps to failure): which is exactly what I do! I am a little nervous now whether or not I am doing the right thing after all. I’d love to hear your take on this article.. Many thanks!

    • P. D. Mangan says:

      Rob, I think if weight training led to cardiomegaly we would know about it. As for dead bodybuilders, you’re right, steroids would be the likely cause. Enlarged hearts are also seen more in distance runners. Finally, cardiomegaly happens with pathological causes, muscle hypertrophy with exercise.

      • Rob H says:

        Thanks for your reply on that Dennis: to be honest that was what I was thinking too: but I wanted to run this by you as it’s always interesting to read different points of view I find.

        My other question to you on that article though is: what do you make of his recommendation to take 1,000mg of vitamin C, even after weight training, since he believes whilst it did negatively affected hypertrophy, more importantly in his view it increased muscular strength ( 1 rep max)? In the comments he goes on to say that taking 1,000mg of Vitamin C supplements only on rest days would be sufficient in his view. I know the guy is very well respected, but I just can’t buy into supplementation of Vitamin C: I think I sent you a link to a BBC show where they showed that taking in external antioxidants in the form of a fruit smoothie more than proportionately reduced endogenous antioxidant activity… What do you make to this? I eat 2 x kiwis (the fruit, not New Zealanders) on rest days for a ‘whole food’ source of Vitamin C, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go…

        • Joshua says:

          I read that article last summer as well. Paul Jaminet is a brilliant guy, and I agree with 95% of what he writes….but I think he went a little out of his area of expertise with this one. About the vitamin C supplementation, I still think doing it after lifting weights is a bad idea. The pattern we’re starting to realize with antioxidants is that they can enhance recovery in the short term (which may explain the non-significant increase in 1-RM for those who took them in the study he discusses), but long-term, they tend to impair structural adaptations that result in increased hypertrophy (muscle growth) and, in the long-term, strength. See PD’s earlier post (a couple of months ago, I think) on how cold water impairs long-term hypertrophy and strength gains, even though it improves recovery in the short term. The same principle applies here, IMHO.

          • Rob H says:

            Hi Joshua, I agree that Paul Jaminet is a great guy, but I do disagree with a lot of his views, and particularly the fact that he seems a bit dogmatic sometimes: for example sticking with his old view of Vitamin C supplementation when more recent studies would warrant a change of view. I can see no reason at all to supplement with Vitamin C – even on rest days – except for the case of illness as Dennis mentions below. That’s why I appreciate Dennis’s approach: a genuine willingness to change his mind as and when compelling new research comes in. The other thing I really disagree with Jaminet on (and Mark Sisson for that matter) is the advice to avoid legumes and oats because they contain phytic acid: ie the very same IP6 that chelates iron and helps prevent cancer!

          • P. D. Mangan says:

            Old view: phytates lower cholesterol
            Later view: phytates prevent absorption of necessary minerals
            New view: phytates prevent iron absorption – and cancer!

            As for that middle view, pure zinc deficiency was fist discovered (only a few decades ago) in the Middle East, among people who were eating huge amounts of bread and little else. So, while phytates could inhibit the absorption of important minerals, it does seem like you’d really have to have a poor diet with heavy phytates and few minerals to have any serious consequences. Lesser consequences, who knows? A better reason for avoiding oats might be glucose spikes; steel cut oats might mitigate that (I don’t know). As for legumes, they’re pretty much just carbs, so I avoid them for that reason.

        • P. D. Mangan says:

          I’ve cooled considerably on my enthusiasm for vitamin C, and yes, it appears that it may overall lower antioxidant capacity. Megadose Vitamin C can be very useful in illness, but as a regular supplement, I would use only in small amounts, i.e. not daily and <500 mg. If more were deemed necessary, I would be looking at other factors, like infection, high iron, supplementing with NAC, and others.

  3. Travis says:

    After having been diagnosed with high blood pressure (175/115), I started lifting weights, mostly dumbbells, and got it down naturally to (117/74). I admit I haven’t stayed to the docs diet and haven’t really lost any weight (5′ 11 200lbs), so it’s definitely been the weights that have done it.

  4. Joe Baron says:

    I started training with weights at 17 yrs and I am still working out as a retired man. I agree that resistance training is beneficial. I was Sheffield and district heavyweight champion although I was the lightest competitor at 15stone. That was 1967 or 68. I trimmed down and won several bodybuilding titles including Mr South Yorkshire, Mr York (novice) Mr Sheffield (2nd Novice) Mr Doncaster (Twice).No steroids were used only lots of milk and good food. I discovered Casilan supplement when I served 9 years in the RAF. Two years after leaving the RAF I trained as a teacher having spent some time as a voluntary youth worker.
    I gained my Equity card through singing professionally which I still do. Thanks. Joe Baron.

    • P. D. Mangan says:

      Joe, great to have someone of your caliber commenting on one of my weightlifting / life extension articles. Cheers!

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