Heavy gardening or the gym just once a week cuts your risk of dying early by a fifth

Woman gardening outside. (Getty Images)
Heavy gardening counts as strength training, researchers say. (Getty Images)

Going to the gym – or a similarly strenuous activity like intensive gardening – for just half an hour a week cuts your risk of dying early by up to a fifth, according to a new study.

Doing 30 mins to an hour of muscle strength training each week reduces the risk of death from heart disease, diabetes and cancer by between 10-20%, found the new research.

What's more, your risk of dying from these diseases could potentially drop a further 40% if combined with aerobic exercise.

Hand reaching for weights in gym. (Getty Images)
Just 30-60 mins of muscle strength training can slash the risk of dying early. (Getty Images)

Whether you're a gym bunny or an outdoorsy type, you can choose the type of exercise to suit you – heavy gardening counts as strength training just as much as lifting weights or doing press-ups does, academics report.

However, working out for longer than the time suggested by the study – published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine – does nothing to cut the risk further, so there's no need to get carried away.

While it is already known that flexing muscles is linked to a lower risk of death, scientists had not examined how much of this was needed for such health benefits – until now.

To do so, academics examined research databases for observational studies where adults without major health issues had been monitored for at least two years, analysing 16 in total, with the earliest published 10 years ago.

Studies were carried out across the US, UK, Australia and Japan, with each one ranging from almost 4,000 to almost 500,000 participants, between 18-years-old and 97. The longest people had been monitored for was 25 years.

Read more: Eating lentils could add 10 years to your life, scientists say

Watch: Here's how to exercise correctly – otherwise you could do more harm than good

Of the studies, 12 included men and women, two included only men and three included only women.

Researchers analysed the effect both strength training and aerobic forms of exercise like running and jumping had on participants' health in all studies.

Read more: Meat-free benefits: Two vegetarian days a week slashes cancer risk

Muscle-focused activities were linked to a lower risk of death from any cause, as well as from heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and lung cancer, with the best results achieved after 30 to 60 minutes of training, which can typically be done in one session.

However, no link was found between muscle training and some forms of cancer including bowel, kidney, bladder and pancreatic cancer.

Man running up steps. (Getty Images)
Aerobic exercise, like running or jumping, can reduce the rusk of dying from disease further. (Getty Images)

On top of the benefits found for strength training each week, the study also discovered people who do aerobic exercise regularly too were at an even lower risk from all causes of death, heart disease and cancer.

People who did both were at a 40% lower risk from all causes of death, a 46% lower risk from heart disease and a 28% lower risk of cancer.

Read more: Freezing swims save 'adrenaline junkie' novelist from constant pain

"The combination of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities may provide a greater benefit for reducing all-cause, cardiovascular disease and total cancer mortality," explained the study's author Dr Haruki Momma of Tohoku University in Japan.

"Given that the available data are limited, further studies – such as studies focusing on a more diverse population – are needed to increase the certainty of the evidence."

Additional reporting by SWNS.