PARKVILLE, Mo. -- Want to live a longer life? Here's a suggestion you might not have heard before. Build some muscle.
UCLA Researchers looked at men over 55 and women over 65. They found people who had the most muscle mass were the least likely to die over the next ten to 15 years.
At a time when many peers may be taking a nap, Fred Lapp is working out. The 78-year-old says strengthening muscles helps control back and joint pain.
"I don't know if it's gonna help me live longer, but I definitely feel it will help me live better," said Lapp.
The research published in the American Journal of Medicine found older people with the most muscle mass were 20 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with the least muscle mass.
Kathy Armitage of the YMCA at Platte County Community Center South says weak muscles may be linked to a lot of issues that can shorten life.
"It puts them at a precursor for falling, precursor for getting more infections, colds, flu. It probably compromises the immune system when you're not as strong," said Armitage.
She recommends seniors do strength training two to three times a week.
"Leave out the cardio that day. Just work on the muscle. Do it 'til you have a burn in the muscle. It can be anywhere form two sets with 12 reps each, and then move on," said Armitage.
But all that can sound intimidating to many seniors. So you can start with something as simple as lifting cans of vegetables.
"I always tell them when we do our bicep curls, this is your grocery muscle. This allows you to carry that grocery bag or your purse," said Armitage.
The new research suggests it can also help you live longer.
"That's nice to know. That was never my objective," said Lapp.
It's a bonus for him and others as they muscle up.
Keep in mind the study found an association, not an actual cause and effect between muscle mass and a longer life. But the researchers say doctors shouldn't just look at your body mass index -- your height and weight. They need to also look at your muscle mass to get your true picture of health.