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Muscular Strength and Rates of Death in Men 20-80

En Español (Spanish Version)

Cardiovascular fitness has been shown to be a powerful tool against many diseases including the number one killer in the US— heart disease . Strength training , while proven to have health benefits, is unproven in its effects to decrease death from all causes including heart disease and cancer. Researchers reviewed information that had been obtained during a study at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. The study, published in the British Medical Journal , found that men with higher levels of strength had lower rates of death from all causes.

About the Study

The study was a prospective cohort study that followed 10,265 men for an average of 18.9 years. The men, 20-80 years of age, received comprehensive medical and fitness evaluations at the beginning of the study. Over the study time, they received periodic re-evaluations. Researchers tracked deaths from any causes, and carefully tracked deaths from heart disease.

After adjusting for known risk factors for cancer, heart disease, and death, the men with the lowest level of muscle strength had:

  • 1.46 times greater risk for death
  • 1.59 times greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • 1.24 times greater risk of death from cancer

Cardiovascular fitness did appear to have a stronger beneficial effect than strength training. The benefits of strength training carried across all age groups. It also appeared to provide benefits even if a participant was overweight or obese .

This type of study can allow confounding factors to affect the outcomes. Given the outcome, it does suggest that more controlled studies should be done to fully understand the benefits of strength training.

How Does This Affect You?

More rigorous studies need to be done to confirm these findings. However, it is widely accepted that overall physical fitness has multiple health benefits for people of any age. Given the high rates of overweight and obese people, it is also important to know that strength training provided protective benefits for people who were overweight or obese.

Talk to you doctor about your risk factors for heart disease and cancer. Introduce well-rounded physical activities that include cardiovascular and strength elements.




  • Ruiz JR, Sui X, Lobelo F, et al. Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: prospective cohort study. BMJ . 2008 July 12; 337(7661):92–95.

Last reviewed August 2008 by Larissa J. Lucas, MD

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