Why the Strong Survive


Most people inherently known that eating well and staying in shape is in their best interest. Strangely enough, there have been few long term studies carried out to prove and further understand why this is. Questioning the obvious often leads to surprising conclusions.

Studies have been performed but they used hand grip strength tests. These tests aren’t particularly effective since grip strength does not always directly correlate with muscular strength. The hand is a small muscle when compared to the rest of the human body.


The National Center for Biotechnology Information released a study which examined the association between muscular strength and mortality in men. This prospective cohort study (long term study that observes a group of similar individuals) was carried out to study “the association between muscular strength and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in men”. Or, to put plainly, to see if more muscular strength resulted in a longer life.

This is fascinating for a few reasons. It is easy to simply assume that a healthier life results in a longer life, but understanding how and why furthers our understanding of issues like obesity and diabetes. Studying peoples habits and results over long periods of time can assist us in planning our ideal life. Having these longterm studies in our knowledge arsenal provides that much more support, guidance and motivation. Finally, one should never just accept things that they think to be true as fact.

Starting in 1980, 8,762 men received medical and strength tests. Examiners measured HDL, triglycerides, glucoselevels, and BMI. They also tested one rep max of bench press and leg press and max effort on a treadmill. After 18.9 years 28% died of cardiovascular disease and 39% died from cancer.  Those who survived had significantly higher muscle strength.

“Muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer in men.”

Health and performance are directly tied. If your performance declines, your health is probably declining. It’s hard to measure health but it is easy to measure performance. If you get sick, recuperate, but don’t rebuild your muscle, you are MUCH more susceptible to getting sick again, and more seriously. An unfortunate example of this is Steve Jobs. After his first sick leave in 2009, he recovered and went back to work. But he was, and continues to be, rail thin. He never rebuilt any muscle, and now, sadly, he is sick again. Evidence supports the fact that if he had begun a strength training regime, his body would have been in better shape to fight of disease.

While the experiment did not find out exactly why increased strength lead to a longer life, it provides another piece of strong evidence to support longterm benefits of strength training.  The correlation between health and strength means that a strength training regime would be effective in treating obesity. For an ‘everyday’ person, this study is yet more proof  that 3-5 hours a week at the gym is a small price to pay to add years onto your life. There are few activities that can claim to do that. Proving what many though was true as fact validates those hours in the gym, and may help motivate others to start, potentially avoiding serious complications down the line.

You can read the full study here.