Strength is Life
January 31, 2011 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Stronger people are harder to kill. A 20-year study involving nearly 9000 men aged 20-80 found "Muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer, even after adjusting for cardiorespiratory fitness and other potential confounders." Food for thought when designing your next fitness program?
posted by schroedinger (88 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fine Metafilter I'll lift some weights tonight, gah.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:23 PM on January 31, 2011 [16 favorites]


DEADLIFTS FOR ALL
posted by schroedinger at 5:24 PM on January 31, 2011 [16 favorites]


come on now.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:25 PM on January 31, 2011


There is no God but Squat, and Rip is his prophet.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:26 PM on January 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


So, a round of steroids for everyone?
posted by dortmunder at 5:26 PM on January 31, 2011


More calisthenics for this monkey!, One-arm push-up, here I come!

Look better naked AND live longer. TAKE THAT, COUCH POTATOES!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:28 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Haha, this just means I get to die before my significant other :)
posted by Neekee at 5:30 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Correlation, causation, et cetera, et cetera - title of the study specifies an association between strength and mortality.
posted by XMLicious at 5:34 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer, even after adjusting for cardiorespiratory fitness"

...this doesn't, unfortunately, tell me whether I should focus my workout on "cardiorespiratory fitness" or weightlifting, assuming that my primary motivation for working out is a crippling fear of death.
posted by IjonTichy at 5:35 PM on January 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


So is this some kind of thing? Like a fitness trend or something? Because I feel like I'm hearing a lot of "forget cardio and lift weights" stuff lately.
posted by craichead at 5:36 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's why the big muscly henchman is always the second-last baddie to be killed in any action movie.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:38 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, a round of steroids for everyone?

Steroids may be as American as apple pie, but they shrink your junk!

You wanna live longer with shrunken junk, go right ahead. Not this monkey.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:40 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


RARRRGH IF DEATH COMES NEAR ME I'LL RIP HIS NIPPLES OFF
posted by loquacious at 5:41 PM on January 31, 2011 [20 favorites]


tldr version:

"Resistance training should be a complement to rather than a replacement for aerobic exercise. The recommendation for moderate to vigorous physical activity and resistance training are supported by the current research owing to the reduction in risk of death from all causes and cancer associated with increased cardiorespiratory fitness or muscular strength."

BTW, this article is from 2008. Was it hard to kill?
posted by benzenedream at 5:44 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jack LaLanne lived to 96. And that weren't no last 15 of those years are diseased and decrepit years Jack had.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:46 PM on January 31, 2011


So, a round of steroids for everyone?
posted by dortmunder at 8:26 PM on January 31 [+] [!]


Well, of course, because one cannot possibly engage in any form of activity that builds strength without taking drugs.


...this doesn't, unfortunately, tell me whether I should focus my workout on "cardiorespiratory fitness" or weightlifting, assuming that my primary motivation for working out is a crippling fear of death.

What this article is saying is that even accounting for the fact that someone who is stronger may also be engaging in more cardiovascular activity, strength is still associated with lower mortality rates. That is, muscular strength is associated with wide-ranging benefits separate from cardiovascular ability.


Correlation, causation, et cetera, et cetera - title of the study specifies an association between strength and mortality.

Of course, it is possible that there is some innate unaccounted for quality that allows people to both be stronger and live longer. However, given the variety of other studies showing the benefits of strength-training a study like this is compelling.
posted by schroedinger at 5:49 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Imma go do some burpees and chinups.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:51 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does this mean that strength training can reduce the risk of cancer or that having the genetics that allows one to more easily build muscle correlates with increased life expectancy?
posted by justkevin at 5:51 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


That is, muscular strength is associated with wide-ranging benefits separate from cardiovascular ability.

Sure, although what would be interesting is which generally results in more benefits. Based on previous research, cardiovascular activity also has wide-ranging benefits. And while this may well argue that the best course is to do both, it's not clear which is better if you "had" to pick one.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:51 PM on January 31, 2011


Jean-Claude Van Damme has been trying to tell us this since 1993.
posted by mannequito at 5:52 PM on January 31, 2011


Maybe strength = longer life.

Or maybe it's people who exercise tend to take better care of themselves in general: go to the doctor, eat better, are less stressed, etc.

I know when I get on the exercise bandwagon, I try to eat better because I don't want to waste all my hard work at the gym for a few seconds of pleasure.
posted by bitteroldman at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


haha isnt it obvious that its harder to kill stronger people? theyll put up a fight.
posted by sunshinedust20 at 6:06 PM on January 31, 2011


Riffing on bitteroldman I'd be interested in what correlations there are between exercise and appetite. Anecdotally I find that when I'm doing a lot of either strength or cardio (winter is strength -- carving board is a real resistance workout, summer is cardio from mtb) my appetite totally changes toward healthy stuff, notably protein, veggies and complex carbs. It's not a subtle thing either, more a raging Jones for the good stuff.
posted by unSane at 6:07 PM on January 31, 2011


I know when I get on the exercise bandwagon, I try to eat better because I don't want to waste all my hard work at the gym for a few seconds of pleasure.

And I'm the exact opposite - I think nothing of eating fast food when I'm "compensating" for it at the gym.
posted by ripley_ at 6:08 PM on January 31, 2011


If they didn't observe death in 100% of their study participants, one of the following must be true:

1) They haven't selected a long enough time interval over which to conduct their study.
2) There are some serious errors in their methodology.
3) The end days are upon us.

Everybody dies.

Oh. Were they talking about life expectancy? Why couldn't they have phrased it that way?
posted by schmod at 6:08 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Other possible mediators -- exercise anecdotally has positive effects on sleep quality and helps combat depression, both potentially significant in terms of immune response among lots of other things.
posted by unSane at 6:10 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you are bedridden, you lose a lot of muscle mass. People with serious illnesses become physically weak. A very strong person is unlikely to be (presently) or have been (recently) severely ill. This doesn't mean that being very muscular and strong will ipso facto protect you from serious illness.
posted by bad grammar at 6:12 PM on January 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


My boyfriend's father will be 100 later this year. He was a professional dancer and acrobat in the 1930s and early 1940s, took a break to go whip the Nazis for several years, then came back to the states and continued performing till he started a dance/gymnastics studio, where he taught until he retired in his 70s, at which point he kept dancing for fun into his 80s.

In the past couple of years, he has had a series of accidents (e.g., falling down the basement stairs -- multiple times) that would literally kill most people in their late 90s, but he pretty much invariably gets up, goes to the hospital, and amazes the doctors with his relatively minor injuries. Everyone can only attribute it to a lifetime of athleticism. (The tragedy, of course, is that his body is holding on longer than his mind.)
posted by scody at 6:15 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Jean-Claude Van Damme has been trying to tell us this since 1993

Also, Steven Segal.

I would like to know what the correlations are between general longevity and health, and physical activity such as throwing hired goons through plate glass windows, or having pithy catchphrases once you've just shot someone in the face.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:19 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got taught that a high fibre diet is good at preventing bowel cancer because it keeps things movin' along.

Poo is poison, so you don't want it sitting stagnant in your bowels, plus the fibre is constantly scraping the bowel lining, getting rid of nasties... and a few other reasons I've forgotten.

So is it such a long bow to draw with a muscular strength analogy? Extra muscle mass means a constantly higher metabolism, even at rest. Things are movin' along.

Plus the regular exercise itself to maintain strength. Exercise stimulates the lymphatic system, and one of the roles of the lymphatic system is to clean up gunk.

At work, DNRTA.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:20 PM on January 31, 2011


Participants were predominantly white, well educated, and belonged to the middle and upper socioeconomic strata.
posted by docgonzo at 6:23 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Does this mean that strength training can reduce the risk of cancer or that having the genetics that allows one to more easily build muscle correlates with increased life expectancy?

Probably a bit of both.

I'm certainly no health nut. I don't lift weights, but I'm strong and generally get my exercise through walking and biking and everyday life.

The way I look at it is this: Exercise and sports aren't just about work and effort. They're also about mindset and visualization. People who get really good at sports or working out have a mindset that fosters and supports it. It's not "work" in the traditional sense of drudgery, it's about flow and optimal experience.

It's why and how athletes do things that seem to be impossible. Of lack of a better word, it's magic. It's more than the sum of it's parts. Or call it "getting in the zone". Same thing. It's that moment where everything else falls away and you're only thinking about your pedaling cadence on your bike, how you're spinning your feet in circles, just lightly perched on your pedals, your body melting into the machine. Or it's visualizing the follow-through on a punch in boxing, or the perfect hip throw in Judo - and then doing it.

But it's this same visualization and ability to know your body and help it along with your mind - that's what helps people fight off disease, to speed healing, to effectively rest and heal. If anything the strength and health is a side effect of this visualization, the visualization is the root action and function.

So it's not just about how much you can lift, but how well you can lift. No, not how well you can lift compared to that other guy - how well you can lift for you personally. Are you struggling and fighting yourself? Or are you centered and in the zone?

Yeah, that's kind of Zen. It's supposed to be. That's where Zen gets the idea of "effortless effot". Don't just sweep the floor. Be the broom. Be one with the broom, the room and the sweeping and give it your whole focus.

Current medical and sports science both acknowledge the importance of visualization. Doctors counsel cancer patients to visualize themselves fighting the disease, and winning. Chronic disease victims are encouraged to take up meditation, to practice visualization and positive thinking.

I used these same skills to get the hell out of the hospital this past summer.
The docs and people here on MeFi told me I'd have a chest tube in for 2-3 weeks. My tube was out in something like 7-8 days, and I was out of the ward a day or two later. I literally sat there and talked to my wounds and injuries. I mean, it was mostly internal monologue but I vocalized more than once. "Heal faster, damn it! You can do it. Start knitting, scars. Ugly is fine, just be strong."

And I wouldn't have been able to be so upbeat to visualize that so well if I didn't know that I probably had somewhere to go after the hospital, that I didn't have people to talk to over the computer and make me laugh. The comfort of pain killing drugs sure helped, too, but that's really exactly why we use painkillers, so we can think past the discomfort.

But there's something there, there. I'm increasingly skeptical of woo as I get older, and I'm sliding from agnostic to atheist. But we'd be fools not to continue to investigate and explore the science behind these semi-mystical things like placebo effects and visualization, and even pre-cognition. If they're real - demystifying them won't make them less useful. If anything it will just make them more useful.
posted by loquacious at 6:26 PM on January 31, 2011 [15 favorites]


Bicycle riding is the sole form of exercise sanctioned by the membership of Metafilter. And we all know that most people are getting way too much exercise as it is and should lay off a bit.

Go outside and build a snowsomething - the lot of you.
posted by vapidave at 6:33 PM on January 31, 2011


Go outside and build a snowsomething - the lot of you.

If there was snow outside I wouldn't be biking. I'd be sledding down Denny on a trash can.
posted by loquacious at 6:35 PM on January 31, 2011


I prefer to periodically expose myself to toxins in order to strengthen my constitution. I am currently on a cycle of Camel Lights and Mallowmars. When the apocalypse comes I will be perfectly adapted to our environment, while the strong die of toxic exposure I will be fine subsisting on nuke-cola and bloatfly meat.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:36 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey, everybody, the beach is that way! *flexs bicep, points thumb*
posted by P.o.B. at 6:45 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it possible that you need a fundamentally strong constitution to acquire muscular strength? Chronic invalids don't get the chance to work out much. If there is causality here, it might be pointing the other way than everyone's assuming.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:49 PM on January 31, 2011


Look, I JUST told you this was a trend. Sheesh.
posted by norm at 6:51 PM on January 31, 2011


So is it such a long bow to draw with a muscular strength analogy? Extra muscle mass means a constantly higher metabolism, even at rest. Things are movin' along.
Interesting theory, but actually metabolism creates free radicals which actually cause damage. So some people actually think the way to live for a long time is to do a highly calorie restrictive diet.

Of course I wonder, if you have a lot of muscle mass, perhaps the extra calories just get soaked up by muscles (which burn calories even if you're not using them) then those calories aren't used in areas more likely to be damaged and not rebuilt as easily.
posted by delmoi at 6:56 PM on January 31, 2011


If there was snow outside I wouldn't be biking. I'd be sledding down Denny on a trash can.

But if you tried that today you would probably get hit by a car and die. Therefore SNOW = LONGER LIFE. IT IS SCIENCE.
posted by hattifattener at 7:03 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's been a lot of talk about the optimal strength workouts lately here on the blue. One very good and mostly unknown guide is the International Hoplology Society's book, Strength & Conditioning for the Combative Athlete. You can find it here:
http://www.hoplology.com/shop.htm

When I lifted*, that's the guide I used and it works very very well. You'll need a trainer to teach you the olympic lifts, but the workouts in the guide are brutal, simple and effective. Combine that with some Tabatas and you are good to go.

*These days I mostly do traditional martial arts conditioning (so called "internal" work), free body stuff and interval training. I'd lift too but then I'd be a professional athlete in terms of my time commitment. Since I have a day job, that's not happening any time soon.
posted by wuwei at 7:20 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


if you have a lot of muscle mass, perhaps the extra calories just get soaked up by muscles

That's exactly what it is. The more muscle mass, the higher your resting metabolism because that extra muscle needs to be fed.

Going from memory from lectures long ago, citation needed.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:25 PM on January 31, 2011


Yeah, that's kind of Zen. It's supposed to be. That's where Zen gets the idea of "effortless effort".

This is totally true. Modern scholars agree that the original title of The Two Entrances and Four Practices was most likely Two Entrances, Four Practices, and Eight Hundred Squats: Are You Man Enough for the Bodhidharma Challenge?, and that it was mostly ripped off from an old Special Forces manual.

And who could forget Zen Buddhism's most famous koan?
A monk asked Joshu: "Has a dog killer Buddha-lats?"

Joshu replied: "Bro."
Seriously, I get the point you are trying to make, loquacious.
posted by No-sword at 7:38 PM on January 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


Go outside and build a snowsomething - the lot of you.

*looks out over Bangkok street, contemplates distance to snow*

Hey, you're trying to trick me into exercise, aren't you?

waaah.... I can't even spell exercise... I'm going to die right now, I know it...
posted by pompomtom at 7:45 PM on January 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I read every comment with an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.
posted by jefbla at 7:48 PM on January 31, 2011


I read every comment with an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.
posted by jefbla at 10:48 PM on January 31 [+] [!]

That's what I do when I work out!

Remember when I said I'd lift you last? I LIED.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:50 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Modern scholars agree that the original title of The Two Entrances and Four Practices

I read this as Two Entrances and Four Pancakes. I'm sure I was assisted by the mention of the word "Denny."
posted by rtha at 8:03 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


okay fine, I'll go do some squats!
posted by vespabelle at 8:30 PM on January 31, 2011


If my choices are work out and eat vegetables or die, then I choose death.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:32 PM on January 31, 2011


"Current medical and sports science both acknowledge the importance of visualization. Doctors counsel cancer patients to visualize themselves fighting the disease, and winning. Chronic disease victims are encouraged to take up meditation, to practice visualization and positive thinking."
I think visualization is great, but let's not oversell the power of positive thinking.
Also, I'm so freaking sore at the moment (damn trainer and his "pushing me" and my brilliant idea of agreeing to also go to the rock climbing gym) that I can't really imagine how any of this will help me live longer. It makes me want to crawl into bed and never get out.
posted by atomicstone at 8:32 PM on January 31, 2011


All medical research studies should come with a link to Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.
posted by underflow at 8:43 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Drink some nonnfat chocolate milk after your climb, atomicstone. You'll feel much better.

Or really, any drink that's 4 to 1 carbs to protein. That's what the strong people do.
posted by notyou at 8:53 PM on January 31, 2011


I got taught that a high fibre diet is good at preventing bowel cancer because it keeps things movin' along.

Poo is poison, so you don't want it sitting stagnant in your bowels, plus the fibre is constantly scraping the bowel lining, getting rid of nasties... and a few other reasons I've forgotten.


This is the kind of thing that sounds like it should make sense, but researchers don't really know how true this is at all. I've been eating a high fiber diet since my 20s and I got diagnosed with colon cancer a few days after my 41st birthday. I'm nearly a year into treatment, and just anecdotally it seems the majority of people I've met (in person or online) with colon cancer also report having had good and even great diets before their diagnosis.

Now, this is not to say that adequate dietary fiber doesn't have health benefits, because it certainly does, but rather that its usefulness in specifically preventing colorectal cancer is not really clear.
posted by scody at 8:58 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Notyou: but advil tastes soooo much better!
posted by atomicstone at 9:05 PM on January 31, 2011


All medical research studies should come with a link to Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.

Is it cool if I just believe those findings apply when I encounter studies that I don't like? And if I assume the findings invalidate the study itself when I encounter studies I agree with? I'm trying to streamline my fact-checking and I also like being right all the time.
posted by millions at 9:06 PM on January 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


This post should have been called "Only the Strong Survive." That is all.
posted by palindromic at 9:08 PM on January 31, 2011


The results of the present study should be interpreted with caution.

Generalisation of the findings may only apply to well educated white men of middle to upper socioeconomic status. Values for blood pressure and cholesterol levels, body weight, and cardiorespiratory fitness from participants in the aerobics centre longitudinal study were similar to those reported in two population based studies in North America. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that the benefits of muscular strength would be different in other ethnic or socioeconomic groups.

Because of the limited sample of women, who contributed relatively few deaths to the main study, we were unable to perform a meaningful parallel analysis on women. Therefore women were not included in this substudy.

No detailed information about drug use or diet was available, which may have biased the results through residual confounding. It seems unlikely, however, that these factors would account for all of the observed association between muscular strength and mortality.

That none of the participants reported a family history of cancer might be a limitation of the main study owing to self selection bias. In fact, only 1.16% of men in the entire cohort of the aerobics centre longitudinal study reported a family history of cancer. Future studies should include such information whenever possible.


Look, I'm a big fan of the potential of cohort studies, but could we resist the urge to nickname them with misleadingly confident declarations?
posted by desuetude at 9:16 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


To paraphrase Robert Maynard Hutchins (former president of the University of Chicago):

"Any Mefite that feels like exercise should lie down until the feeling passes."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:23 PM on January 31, 2011


This is a study of my Great Uncle Ben.

The man is damn near 80 now, and still strong as 2 or more of us in this lesser generation of cubicle-bound desk jockeys. He’s probably only about 6’1, but easily 330lbs and before all his bulk started to turn into Old Man Gut, it was all barrel-chested strongman muscle. Im only 27, so he’s been ‘old’ ever since I can remember, but still the strongest man I’ve ever been around. In many quarters he’d easily be described as a redneck- goes through cars, boats and trucks at a rate seemingly not bound by any standard conception of income, always working on a halfcocked reclamation project or 12, with parts strown about the lawn like any given Jeff Foxworthy punchline, built at least 2 houses that I know of with his own hands, worked 40 years for a newspaper as a third shift delivery driver and thought nothing of it other than that’s what he did at night before waking up at noon to build a car, put up a barn, repair a roof or fix a friend’s tractor.

In 1999 or 1998, after he retired, he bought a little independent operation sawmill out in the Kentucky countryside. He’d go up there every day and cut lumber to sell to the construction yard, by himself. Just him, a chainsaw, a tractor and a big ass saw. One day he was out there, alone, and misjudged which way a fullsized oak was going to fall. Fell right on him and broke his back in easily half a dozen places. Laid there for over 5 hours before someone came looking for him and the medivac chopper got out to the site. The doctors said it would’ve killed a lesser man, and there wasn’t any good reason that he’s still around on this earth other than he’s the biggest, onriest motherfucker still kicking around in his 70’s.
Two days after he got out of the hospital, he was out in his garage, flat on his back in his turtle-shell immobilizer device changing the oil in his truck.

8 years later, he’s fine, still going as strong as ever even if he uses a cane these days. Last time I saw him he came down and winched up my sister’s wrecked VW Beetle onto a flatbed trailer. Said he had another one on his back lot and was pretty sure he could mix them together and get one running again.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:25 PM on January 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Uncle Ben has Old-Man Strength:
Somewhere between 73-year-old actor Jack Palance's one-handed push-ups in 1992 and 46-year-old Nolan Ryan beating up a two-decades-younger Robin Ventura during a baseball game in 1993, the old man became feared as much as he is respected. Now the early bird dinner crowd at the Nuovo Vesuvio is almost as tense and scary as the lifers on the weight pile at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Still not convinced that the American male is getting wussier? Examine your own job site, or any other workplace in the world, and ask yourself the following question: Who would win in a fight -- the old guys or the young guys?

Next, imagine actors Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson and Nick Nolte in a Thunderdome-style fight-to-the-death cage match against Orlando Bloom, Jude Law and Ryan Phillippe. Do you think for a second that the scene wouldn't end in about 12 seconds, with Dirty Harry picking his teeth with the femur of Reese Witherspoon's pretty, soon-to-be ex-husband?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:33 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have been a few threads recently about EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT FITNESS IS WRONG etc. But a little common sense would say, yeah, the strong live longer. And better.

OK, upthread someone said vegetables and exercise? I'll just die, thank you. OK, your call.

But just to add one anecdote to the mix: I started working out when I was forty. Now I'm almost sixty. When I say "working out" I mean going to the gym a couple times a week and buying a bicycle...for fun and commuting. I never consulted a trainer. I just push and pull on those fucking machines and read a magazine for twenty minutes on the exercycle.

Lost twenty pounds, no longer have the back pains I used to get cuz my upper body muscles support my spinal column better, at least that's what makes sense to me. We civilized people need exercise, too. Learning language and machine operation has not changed our genetics. I might not be doing it "right," but it's better than not doing it. And vegetables are delicious. Taco Bell, not so much.
posted by kozad at 9:52 PM on January 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


I never was interested in weights because I'm not into the whole meathead/bodybuilder thing, but I used to have a pretty serious running habit. In college, I was running 5 mile/day every day but sunday. And I thought I was fit. Well I was fit, but kind of accidentally, my roommate and I were coming back from a run one night and we walked through the old part of our gym near our dorm, and stopped in the weight room that no one ever used. It must have been built in the 1940s or so. There was an indoor pool down the hall and I remember it always smelled like chlorine, concrete and old jock straps in there. We got in the habit of doing a few circuits -- squats, bench, pull ups and dips -- 3-4 times a week after our runs. We didn't even take it very seriously or push ourselves hard at all, but we were consistent.

I really became a believer after that. I was amazed the difference it made my daily life. Running felt like I was on springs and I became much more resistant to nagging little injuries. And in the sports I was playing like badminton, racquetball and ping pong the improvements were major. What surprised me is how much more coordinated and in control of my body I was. My muscles, all of them, seemed to work in unison. I went from a good player to a dominating one.

The one time, years later, I did join a gym and used the machines and the elliptical, etc.. it didn't even come remotely close to the combo of my runs and 30 minutes in the weight room. I really think all that is just marketing.
posted by puny human at 10:37 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought it was CON that made you harder to kill, not STR.
posted by Philby at 11:16 PM on January 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


ARE YOU 18TH LEVEL AND STILL AT 19 HIT POINTS?
posted by clavdivs at 11:20 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Correlation, causation, et cetera, et cetera - title of the study specifies an association between strength and mortality.

Boy, it's a pity those dumbasses didn't ask you about basic stats before running their 20 year study of 9000 people and had it published in a peer-reviewed journal. If only they'd asked you could have diagnose the glaring statistical flaws in their article in a few minutes!
posted by rodgerd at 12:56 AM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like how people are tying themselves in knots trying to poke holes in the crazy theory that people who exercise live longer.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:32 AM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like how people are tying themselves in knots trying to poke holes in the crazy theory that people who exercise live longer.

I read an article some time ago that put forth the idea that exercise didn't necessarily make you live longer, but that people who exercised regularly tended to have a short, quick, decline at the end of their lives, rather than the long, slow (often painful) decline of those that didn't.
posted by electroboy at 6:55 AM on February 1, 2011


This is why charisma is my dump stat. Why are you walking away?
posted by Splunge at 7:08 AM on February 1, 2011


I don't think the argument here is about the benefits of exercise, nathancaswell. It's about whether everyone should adhere to one particular exercise philosophy and whether everyone else is a weenie who is doing it wrong.

(I just realized that the "thing" going on here is CrossFit. Is that right? That's why all of a sudden everyone is extolling the virtues of strength-training and scoffing at idiots on elliptical machines?)
posted by craichead at 7:13 AM on February 1, 2011


I like how people are tying themselves in knots trying to poke holes in the crazy theory that people who exercise live longer.

Let's not forget the fact that exercise causes new brain cells and nerves to grow* and helps keep your brain strong to fight off diseases like depression and alzheimer's. Our brains are what make us human, and our brains (like our bodies) get stronger and sharper with more exercise. To be human is to move oneself under one's own power, because that's why we have brains and plants don't.

Remember what Jack said (before he died at 96 in great health): The rich can't buy health, and sedentary intellectuals can't think their way there either.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:45 AM on February 1, 2011


A knowledge of basic statistics is definitely something the people who publish journal articles have, rogerd, but not always those who report on the articles or make metafilter posts about the reportage. It's not really nice to be disingenuous like this and assume somebody is talking about the researchers instead of the reporters or the poster.
posted by tehloki at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2011


Is that right? That's why all of a sudden everyone is extolling the virtues of strength-training and scoffing at idiots on elliptical machines?

I scoff at ellipticals (and virtually all gym machines) because I've found them to be a waste of time. I don't scoff at the people on them.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:54 AM on February 1, 2011


Of course, it is possible that there is some innate unaccounted for quality that allows people to both be stronger and live longer.

I think that the underlying result is probably true, but yes, I would say this is the mother of all endogeneity problems. Notably, this is not an association between strength training and mortality, but observed strength. They note that some of the population in the study was referred by physicians concerned about the participant's health; that alone creates a large potential for bias (people the MDs thought were in health trouble and in bad shape are selectively in the study).

I'd also have liked to see cardio x strength interaction terms with finer grain on cardiovascular fitness. The moderately small number of deaths (503) probably makes it difficult to get much finer resolution.

Boy, it's a pity those dumbasses didn't ask you about basic stats before running their 20 year study of 9000 people and had it published in a peer-reviewed journal. If only they'd asked you could have diagnose the glaring statistical flaws in their article in a few minutes!

It doesn't mean that the study is wrong, just that there are some questions you can't answer with it (like causation). This is not a statistical concern but a methodologic and causal inference concern. There is a reason people think about quasi-experiments and instrumental variables to draw inferences from observational data.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:14 AM on February 1, 2011


(I just realized that the "thing" going on here is CrossFit. Is that right? That's why all of a sudden everyone is extolling the virtues of strength-training and scoffing at idiots on elliptical machines?)

Crossfit is responsible for introducing many people to the idea one can do weight training off of machines, but it is a system with myriad flaws. I wouldn't recommend it to a new trainee unless they were 100% sure their affiliate had high-quality trainers, because their current affiliation system means pretty much any Joe off the street can become "Crossfit Certified" after plopping down $1000 for a two-day course and a $3000 affiliation fee. Not a very high standard given the workouts and movements they prescribe to their clients.
posted by schroedinger at 8:34 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never was interested in weights because I'm not into the whole meathead/bodybuilder thing

That's like why I was never interested in work. Because I'm not into the whole billionaire investment banker living in a solid gold house thing. Or reading books, because I don't want to be Einstein.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 8:43 AM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


"took a break to go whip the Nazis for several years"

"brb, going to whip the Nazis for several years" is my new away message.
posted by Eideteker at 8:52 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Or reading books, because I don't want to be Einstein.'

Well, judging from your tone and seemingly willful misreading of my comment I would say, mission accomplished!
posted by puny human at 9:08 AM on February 1, 2011


To fair Kandarp those meatheads at the gym do make it an uncomfortable place for ordinary people to work out. Particularly they way that they hog the free weights. Which is why am buying my own free weights as soon as I prove my strength training commitment by hitting 100 pushups.

As a general bit of advice to starters out there..Do something that requires no membership and no equipment first before you rush out and sign up for a gym or buy yourself a nautilaus. Then once you know you will stick to it...buy something off ebay. There are a lot of people who quit on fitness so there is no reason to ever buy fitness equipment brand new and two to three times the price.
posted by srboisvert at 9:41 AM on February 1, 2011


Is it possible that you need a fundamentally strong constitution to acquire muscular strength?

I think some variation of this idea is pretty common. I know I used to think this way -- that lifting is for people who are naturally muscular and strong, and some of us just aren't cut out to lift, so it's useless to try, and better to find a form of exercise one is more naturally suited for. I've since learned that this is incorrect. Not everyone will ever be able to deadlift 600, but everyone can get stronger through training, regardless of their build or current level of strength and fitness. Practical Programming 2nd Ed. by Rippetoe and Kilgore includes this related bit in the section on older trainees:
Barbell training is the best prescription for the prevention of all these age-related problems. Staying in (or getting into) the gym slows the decay in muscle mass and pushes the onset of atrophy back for decades. Even in the 60- to 90-year-old range, training reduces the loss of muscle mass to less than 5% per decade. Several studies have shown that 80-year-olds who were inactive but began training with weights actually gained muscle mass and improved their strength, proprioception, and balance. This effect was directly related to the amount of leg work included in the program and the resulting improvements in leg strength. Leg strength was also responsible for improving the ability to walk faster in older people. In one study, twelve weeks of strength training was shown to increase walking endurance by 38%, something walking by itself fails to do.
Despite the fact that most people these days seem to know that they should include "resistance training" in their fitness regimen, I think strength is still commonly seen as being of secondary importance at best. When a sedentary person decides to take up exercising, the default mode seems to be based on endurance or stretching -- running, biking, or yoga. When people do "resistance train" they often want to get "toned" and don't consider strength as a major goal. As far as I'm concerned, strength is of primary importance to overall fitness and should be regarded as such by anyone who wants to exercise, and I think studies like the one in the FPP bear that out.

I just realized that the "thing" going on here is CrossFit. Is that right? That's why all of a sudden everyone is extolling the virtues of strength-training and scoffing at idiots on elliptical machines?)

No. CrossFit is responsible for turning a lot of people on to strength training who may not have learned about it otherwise, which is great. That said, they have a whole lot to answer for as well. Suffice to say that CrossFit did not invent this stuff and is absolutely not synonymous with strength training.

To fair Kandarp those meatheads at the gym do make it an uncomfortable place for ordinary people to work out.

This is another widespread meme that I think is very unfortunate, unless you're trying to capitalize on it like Planet Fitness has. The common word "meathead" itself implies a false dichotomy between strength and intelligence. So you don't want to get too strong, lest you become a meathead. (I don't think you'd be likely to hear the same people say they didn't want to get too smart, lest they become an egghead.) But hey, lifting might make you smarter.

Also there's the idea that there's something inherently "intimidating" about weights or people lifting them, and they're to blame for keeping others away. I understand being afraid to get involved with something that seems potentially injurious and about which one feels ignorant, but I think the blame is all too often externalized by the individual who chooses to remain uninformed. Of course it would be great if the average gym caught on and made competent strength training instruction more readily available, because the bar for "personal trainers" is pretty low at present. I also think people commonly overestimate the likelihood of strength training-related injury and perhaps underestimate the likelihood of injury from other forms of exercise.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 2:13 PM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The old guys all seem strong because you don't notice the weak ones. Most of the weak ones are dead.

But in younger circles, the wimpy emo-powetry kids are still alive.

But just wait.

Just wait.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:58 PM on February 1, 2011


The old guys all seem strong because you don't notice the weak ones. Most of the weak ones are dead.

Or in nursing homes. Hanging out in those places helps to illuminate the importance of physical strength.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:27 PM on February 1, 2011


"The common word "meathead" itself implies a false dichotomy between strength and intelligence. So you don't want to get too strong, lest you become a meathead."

You have to admit though Anatoly, that this is a myth perpetrated and constantly reinforced by the industry itself, with its parade of steroid-guzzling hyper-inflated freakshows. Have you looked at a muscle magazine lately? Now, it is not a belief I share -- I've mentioned in another thread on weightlifting that Oliver Sacks was a champion weightlifter when he was young. And he no meathead.

The point I was making was that I personally have never been attracted to the bodybuilder aesthetic as it was presented to me growing up. I never wanted bulging biceps, to "get ripped" or to be able to lift a car, and I am sure that the narcissism/vanity issues one encounters in most gyms are just not for me. But if you read my comment, a simple circuit of basic resistance exercises combined with running got me in the best shape of my life.
posted by puny human at 3:55 PM on February 1, 2011


You have to admit though Anatoly, that this is a myth perpetrated and constantly reinforced by the industry itself, with its parade of steroid-guzzling hyper-inflated freakshows.

But what industry are we talking abouthere? Your comments seem to be directed at modern bodybuilding, and I guess one of the points I'm trying to make is that bodybuilding is not synonymous with weight lifting. Bodybuilding means training for aesthetics, as opposed to performance. A bodybuilding competition has more in common with a beauty pageant than a powerlifting meet. And it's true that bodybuilding these days is dominated by massive, vascular, dehydrated, fake-tanned steroid users (although bodybuilding probably gets a worse reputation than it deserves, but that's another discussion).

It's definitely unfortunate that the strongest (or only) association a lot of people seem to have with weight lifting is bodybuilding. Although bodybuilders used to a lot cooler.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 4:10 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Olympic weightlifting, weight-based conditioning, powerlifting, Strongman, Highland games, and the myriad other number of sports that employ weights as part of their training methodology or competition are all very different from bodybuilding.

I've been involved in the weight lifting scene for a few years now and overwhelmingly the people I've met are warm and helpful, especially to new people. Don't equate whatever stupid "brahs" you meet at the gym doing bicep curls with the rest of people lifting weights out there, any more than you would assume that a poorly-behaving fratboy is indicative that going to college compels you to roofie young women.
posted by schroedinger at 5:13 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with you on Arnold Anatoly. He is the exception that proves the rule for me. There are some early Avedon photos of him where he resembles a greek statue made flesh. Arnold definitely understood the classical ideals of proportion and balance. And funny that clip begins with him doing ballet, because I was going to say that Nureyev (who was famous for his strength as a dancer) would be my ideal shape.
posted by puny human at 1:45 PM on February 2, 2011


But what industry are we talking abouthere? Your comments seem to be directed at modern bodybuilding, and I guess one of the points I'm trying to make is that bodybuilding is not synonymous with weight lifting. Bodybuilding means training for aesthetics, as opposed to performance.

I would guess the industry that most people are intrested in, the one where lifting weights makes you look better. I don't think most people want to be Bodybuilders but you can't deny that most people who train with weights do it for aesthetic reasons. This is the prime time of the year for gym memberships because of everyones New Year's resolution to 'lose weight'.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:06 PM on February 2, 2011


Whoa whoa whoa, puny human, maybe a NSFW warning with that link there. That's a bit more Nureyev than I was prepped to see.
posted by schroedinger at 3:10 PM on February 2, 2011


Sanford Bennett, The Man Who Grew Young at 70
In 1907 Sanford Bennett wrote a book called 'Exercising in Bed'

Bennett at the age of 50 had become an old man in poor health, suffering from a number of chronic complaints and many wrinkles.

Despairing of relief from doctors and drugs he finally devised a series of some 35 different exercises to be done in bed before arising in the morning.

After following them faithfully for years he had become, in all respects, a young man at 70. This was attested by medical examinations. His face had become smooth without a single wrinkle. His theory was that the body gets old through the accumulation of mineral deposits in the tissues, which finally become stiff and inelastic.

The object of his exercises was to contract and then relax all the muscles and tissues to squeeze the mineral deposits out to be carried off in the blood stream.

In 1912 he followed with another book called 'Old Age - Its Cause & Prevention'

If Bennett had not been killed by an accident when he was in his 80s he might have lived many more years.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:39 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


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