A strong, muscular physique isn’t just for show. As it turns out, stronger boys were found to live longer – even if they later became overweight as adults.
In a recent study, Swedish researchers tracked more than one million adolescents from ages 16 to 19 over a period of 24 years. Scientists used various exercises – like leg curls and push-ups – to determine each adolescent’s strength level.
Over the course of the study, 26,145 of the men died. The leading causes of death were accidental injury, suicide, cancer, heart disease and stroke.
According to the data, those teenagers who scored above average in terms of muscle strength had a 20% – 35% reduced risk of early death. When risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure were taken into account, the link between early death and adolescent muscle strength remained. Indeed, strong teenagers lived longer – even if they grew into overweight or otherwise unhealthy adults.
In the data, researchers found that strong adolescents had a 20% – 30% lower risk of suicide over the course of the study. Interestingly, strong teenagers were up to 65% less likely to have any psychiatric diagnosis including depression. In other words, it appears that physically weaker people may be more vulnerable when it comes to mental health.
On the flip side, the teens with the lowest level of muscular strength were the most likely to die before reaching middle age.
Researchers stressed that their findings don’t mean that building muscle – in an of itself – extends your life. Instead, muscular strength can be a good indicator of overall fitness levels.