Doing 30 to 60 minutes of muscle strengthening exercise a week could help lower your risk of death by up to 20 per cent, a study shows. The research, conducted at Tokyo University in Japan, also shows a link between strength training and lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. The findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found no evidence that more than an hour a week reduces the risk further. Previous research indicated that muscle strengthening activity was associated with a lower risk of death, but it was not known what the optimal “dose” might be. To learn more, the researchers analysed 16 studies carried out in the United States, UK Australia and Japan, that monitored subjects for up to a maximum of 25 years. The number of participants in each study varied from fewer than 4,000 to almost 480,000, and ranged in age from 18 to 97. All the studies considered aerobic or other types of physical activity as well as muscle strengthening activities. Tips for a healthy heart – are you taking care of yours? “The combination of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities may provide a greater benefit for reducing all-cause cardiovascular disease and total cancer mortality,” concluded lead author Haruki Momma. The pooled data analysis showed that muscle strengthening activities were associated with a 10 to 17 per cent lower risk of death from any cause, as well as death from heart disease and stroke , cancer, diabetes , and lung cancer . No association was found between muscle strengthening and a reduced risk of specific types of cancer, including those of the bowel, kidney, bladder or pancreas. Middle-age weight gain is avoidable – but you have to put the effort in A J-shaped curve emerged, with a maximum risk reduction of 10 to 20 per cent at approximately 30 to 60 minutes per week of muscle strengthening activities for death from any cause. Joint analysis of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities showed that the reduction in risk of death from any cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer was even greater when these two types of activities were combined: 40 per cent, 46 per cent and 28 per cent lower, respectively. Momma said further research was needed to focus on a more diverse population, and to increase “the certainty of the evidence”. No money? No problem! A professional's guide to getting a free workout at home Five muscle strengthening exercises If you want to introduce muscle-strengthening exercises into your routine to reap the potential rewards, Hong Kong-based personal trainer Rachel Francia recommends these five exercises for building strength in both the front and back of the body to avoid muscle imbalances. Her recommended exercises should be executed with control and as little use of momentum as possible to maintain time under tension. These exercises can be conducted in limited space using just body weight - perfect for those working from home. Pulse squats: Stand tall with feet around shoulder-width apart, then slowly lower your hips under control into a mid squat position. As you come upward from the squat, focus on driving through the heels of your feet and keeping the tension on your quads and glutes. While in this position, begin to pulse up and down, lowering just a few inches each time. Make sure not to drop your head; keep it up and facing forwards; and don’t forget to breathe through the movement. Prone Y raises: Lie face down on the mat, keeping legs together and extending the elbows until arms are in a Y position with thumbs facing up. Then retract your shoulder blades and squeeze them together. Make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Maintain a neutral spine, ensuring there is no arching or hyper extending of the back and keeping your core tight. Raise your arms up at about a 30-degree angle from your torso to form a “Y” with your body. Briefly pause in the top position before slowly lowering them to the floor. Glute bridges: Lie on your back with your hands at your sides. Keep your knees slightly apart and bent at a 90-degree angle with feet placed flat on the ground. Drive your weight down through your feet to elevate your hips away from the floor, keeping your core tight. In a controlled motion, let your hips sink back towards the mat. To make this exercise more challenging, try doing it with a single leg on the floor. Inchworms: Stand with your feet together and bend over with your fingers touching the floor. Walk your hands out as if you were pushing the floor away from you until you reach a high plank position with shoulders over your wrists. Walk your hands back in towards your feet, keeping your legs as straight as possible and roll back up to a standing position, with control. Deadbugs : Lie on your back with your arms extended in line with your chest, then lift your feet from the ground and bend your hips and knees 90 degrees. Maintain a neutral spine. Make sure there is contact between your lower back and the floor throughout the exercise. Slowly reach your left arm backwards, over your head and towards the floor as you simultaneously extend your right knee and hip so that your right heel reaches towards the floor. Pause just before your arm and leg touch the ground. Reverse the movement and return your left arm and right leg to their starting positions. Move slowly and steadily, exhaling as you go. Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .