That is why we do them. Squats indeed save lives. Strength training with your lower body is paramount for both a greater longevity and reduced body fat. Not running, cycling, doing the elliptical endlessly. A study done in 2005 demonstrates that the two greatest predictors of living a long, healthy disease and injury free life are strength and mass in the lower body. In a population of elderly men and women those with stronger quadriceps muscles had the lowest risk of dying over a 6 year period. Conversely those with the weaker legs muscles had the highest risk of dying.
The amount of muscle mass is also very important. Not only is more muscle mass in the lower body associated with reduced belly (visceral fat which is inflammatory and elated to many health diseases) fat but it too is associated with longevity, especially those with cancer and other diseases.
It goes unstated but the reasons for these two factors being important indicators are as follows:
1. Stronger quadricep muscles leads to maintaining the ability to get up our of a chair unassisted for a much longer period of time.
2. If an individual is able to get up out of a chair regularly then a much more active lifestyle can be maintained.
In a more recent study researchers found that people with kidney disease ( those with nutritional problems impeding the maintenance of muscle mass ) had a consistent association of quantity of muscle mass in the quadriceps and life longevity over a 4 year period.
Squats are one of if not the best exercise to gain and maintain this level of
“functional” strength throughout the hip, thigh and core areas. For example another study (see references below) conducted on elderly people with osteoarthritis resulted in less self reported pain in the knees, better balance and faster walking speeds.
Everybody should strive to be able to do some form of squat training whether it be the barbell weighted squat, body weight or a modified assisted squat. The benefits to consistent, progressive (meaning some form of increase is performed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis) are great to say the least and can impact peoples lives like few other exercise modalities can. Giving those who couldn’t walk well before the ability to do so more efficiently and for a longer period of time in their life is life changing. Here are some other benefits to squat training:
1. Increase ability to lift heavy things off the floor when needed which is a common daily task.
2. Mobility, being able to squat as deeply as you can while keeping the torso vertical is a predictor of good health.
3. Getting up and down off the ground with greater ease. Ask your parents or grandparents how important this is..
4. Squat training can make it easier to walk up and down stairs.
5. Reduce risk of knee and low back pain.
In conclusion, I hope I have made the case that squat training is something to be embraced and not feared. It is a functional movement pattern that happens throughout the day many times. This is a something everyone should strive to maintain as long as they live. Check out our program if you are new to strength training and new to squats to find out which variation is the best starting point you. Please forward to anyone who may find this information interesting.
1. Fukasawa, H. et al. Lower thigh muscle mass is associated with all cause and cardiovascular mortality elderly hemodialysis patients. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017 71 64-69.
2. Newman, A. et al. Strength but not muscle mass is associated with mortality in the health, aging and body composition study cohort. Journal of Gerontology 2006 61A(1) 72-77.
3. Ruiz, J. et al. Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal 2008 337: a 439.