Men with stronger muscles from regular weight training are up to 40 per cent less likely to die from cancer than men who do not pump iron, according to new research.
The findings, by an international team of researchers, suggest muscular strength is as important as staying slim and eating healthily when it comes to protecting the body against deadly tumours.
The scientists who came up with the findings are recommending men weight train at least twice a week, exercising muscle groups in both the upper and lower body.
In recent years, experts have recommended a healthy diet and lifestyle – including regular aerobic exercise such as jogging or cycling to reduce the risks of the disease.
But the latest study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, suggests it may be just as important to build up muscle strength.
A team of experts, led by scientists from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, tracked the lifestyles of 8,677 men aged between 20 and 82 for more than two decades.
Each volunteer had regular medical check ups that included tests of their muscular strength.
Between 1980 and 2003, researchers monitored how many developed cancer and subsequently died from it.
The results showed men who regularly worked out with weights and had the highest muscle strength were between 30 and 40 per cent less likely to lose their life to a deadly tumour.
Even among volunteers who had excess tummy fat or a high body mass index, regular weight training seemed to have a protective effect.
In a report on their findings the researchers stressed keeping a healthy weight was still crucial for avoiding premature death.
But they added: “In the light of these results, it is equally important t to maintain healthy muscular strength levels.
“It’s possible to reduce cancer mortality rates in men by promoting resistance training involving the major muscle groups at least two days a week.”
A spokesman for Cancer Research UK said resistance exercise might have some benefit but it was more important to regularly do some cardiac exercise.
Health information officer Jessica Harris said: “There’s no need to become a body builder. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week that leaves you warm and slightly out of breath can have a positive effect.”