Strength training the key to a long life? Weak muscles ‘could be the new smoking’ when it comes to healthy ageing
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Want to feel younger? New research from the University of Michigan suggests you should invest in some weights and start a strength training class. According to a recent study, weak muscles could affect your long-term health as much as smoking cigarettes!
Not everyone ages at the same rate. Consider two adults, both 60 years old. While those two people can share the same chronological agesomeone can be far younger than a biological aging perspective. Aging is affected by much more than the days crossed out on a calendar; genetic, environmental and behavioral factors also play an important role. It is believed that poor lifestyle choices such as avoiding exercise, unhealthy diet and smoking accelerate biological aging processes. Dealing with a serious illness can also age the body rapidly.
In short, your body may be aging much faster than the date of birth on your driver’s license suggests. Now, for the first time in history, a UM team reports that muscle weakness characterized by grip strength, a proxy for overall strength capacity, is associated with accelerated biological aging. According to the findings, weaken grip strengththe older your biological age.
‘Strong evidence for a link between muscle weakness and acceleration in biological age’
The Michigan Medicine team modeled the relationship between biological age and grip strength among 1,274 participants, all of whom were middle-aged or older. This was achieved through three “aging clocks” based on DNA methylation, a process that provides a molecular biomarker and estimator of the pace of aging. These watches were originally developed from earlier studies focused on a variety of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, physical deficiencies, Alzheimer’s diseaseinflammation and early mortality.
Subsequent results revealed that both older men and women showed an association between lower grip strength and an acceleration of biological age in DNA methylation clocks.
“We know that muscle strength is a predictor of longevity and that frailty is a powerful predictor of disease and mortality, but for the first time we have found strong evidence of a biological link between muscle weakness and an actual acceleration in biological age,” says the study’s lead author. Mark Petersonassociate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Michigan, ua university edition. “This suggests that if you maintain muscle strength throughout your life, you can protect against many common diseases related to age diseases. We know that smoking, for example, can be a powerful predictor of disease and mortality, but now we know that muscle weakness can be the cause new smoking.”
One of the biggest strengths of this project was the eight to ten years of observation. The results show that lower grip strength does indeed predict faster biological aging measured up to a decade later, according to study co-author Jessica Faul, research associate professor at the UM Institute for Social Research.
Previous studies have suggested that low adhesion strength appears to be a strong predictor of adverse health events in general. One project reported that it did better predictor cardiovascular events, such as myocardial infarction, than systolic blood pressure, which is considered a clinical sign to detect cardiac disorders. Prof. Peterson and his team have previously discovered a strong link between muscle weakness and chronic diseases / mortality through population samples.
This previous work, combined with these latest findings, suggests that there is serious potential for clinicians to embrace the use of grip strength as a means of screening for accelerated biological aging. This can help identify those who may be at increased risk of functional decline, chronic disease, and even early mortality in the future.
“Examining grip strength would enable the design of interventions to delay or prevent the onset or progression of these ‘age-related’ adverse health events,” he adds. “We asked that clinicians start using grip strength in their clinics and only in geriatrics has this type been incorporated. However, few people use this, even though we’ve seen hundreds of publications showing that grip strength is a really good measure of health.”
Strength training could prevent ‘inflammation?’
Moving forward, more research is needed to create a stronger understanding of the connection between grip strength and accelerated aging, such as how inflammatory conditions may contribute to age-related frailty and mortality. Previous studies tell us that chronic inflammation during aging, or “inflammation,” is a strong risk factor for mortality in older adults. This same type of inflammation is also associated with lower grip strength and may serve as a significant predictor of the pathway between lower grip strength and disability/chronic disease multimorbidity.
Also, future studies should focus more on how lifestyle and behavioral factors such as exercise and diet can affect grip strength and acceleration of aging, adds Prof. Peterson.
“Healthy eating habits are very important, but I think regular exercise is the most critical thing someone can do to stay healthy throughout life,” he concludes. “We can show it with a biomarker like DNA methylation age, and we can also test it with a clinical trait like grip strength.”
The study was published in Journal of Cachexia Sarcopenia and Muscle.