Can Strength Training Increase a Dog’s Lifespan?
I recently stumbled upon some research on the relationship between muscular strength in humans and their life spans. I will provide some details shortly, but the research suggests that people who are stronger will have a much lower death rate, and this longer life span, then people who are not as strong. As I read through the study, I wondered (as I often do), if the conclusions would also apply to dogs.
Research on Muscular Strength and Life Span
In the study “Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: prospective cohort study” by Ruiz et al, published in 2008, researchers used data collected at the Cooper Institute to analyze if there was a relationship between muscular strength and mortality by any cause. The study data covered 8762 men aged 20-80, and the average follow up period of participants was almost 19 years. The relatively large sample size and lengthy follow up period of this study makes it particularly interesting and, in my opinion, lends more credibility to the effort.
The researchers combed through the data and concluded that “muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer in men, even after adjusting for cardiorespiratory fitness and other potential confounders.”
Even better, at least for those who like cardio exercise, was the researcher’s conclusion that the combined effects of muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness had an inverse relationship with mortality. In fact, they found that the age adjusted death rate in men with high levels of both muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness was 60% lower than the death rate in the group of unfit men with the lowest levels of muscular strength. These results suggest that there is real benefit of incorporating both cardio and strength training in a fitness routine, not just one or the other.
When it came to strength training, the researchers hypothesized that one of the reasons why being stronger would increase life span was due to the fact that muscle requires more energy to maintain on a daily basis, and thus, regular strength training (and the resultant increase in muscle) would, all else equal, result in a higher daily calorie burn and lower risk of obesity and obesity related illness. The example used in the study was that 10 kgs (~22 lbs.) of lean muscle requires an incremental 100 kcals each day to maintain. This would translate to over 10 lbs. of fat per year for a person of the same body weight but without the same lean muscle mass.
Can Strength Training Increase a Dog’s Life Span?
Back to my original question of whether these results can apply to dogs. I obviously can’t answer this definitively but it would seem to me the answer is yes. Whether it is due to some intrinsic factor that muscle provides a body or simply due to the increased metabolism that muscle requires, I would expect that strength training would contribute to a longer life span for a dog, just as it did in the human study. This study points out that strength training, at a minimum, would result in a leaner body, and other research on dogs concludes that leaner dogs will live longer than their overweight litter mates.
Given the importance of strength training as a factor to an increased life span, I will be posting a series of future articles with tips and examples of how you can strength train a dog.