When it comes to strength training and cycling, starting young can pay off decades later.

Strength training, such as BODYPUMP, has several well-researched benefits, including increases in muscular strength and bone density. Cycling workouts, such as RPM, THE TRIP and LES MILLS SPRINT, have been shown to improve cardio-vascular fitness, decreases in bodyfat and increases in leg strength (as has outdoor cycling, of course!). These workouts will make you fitter and healthier with every session. But these short-term benefits could just be the tip of the iceberg. New research shows that if you start(ed) young enough these benefits can extend into later life.

The research, conducted by a Swedish team of scientists, followed a group of over 1.2m adolescents over more than 50 years of their life. At the beginning of the study, they measured their cardio-vascular fitness using a bike, plus their leg and arm strength, and found some interesting results as the group became older. The people with the highest leg strength and cycling fitness as adolescents had the smallest chance of disability in later life, including in both physical and mental disabilities.

So, what does this mean?

Essentially, if you have greater leg strength and higher levels of cycling fitness between the ages of 16-19 then you’re more likely to live a longer, healthier life with fewer disabling problems as you age.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “But I only discovered exercise well into adulthood, is there any point in persevering?” – the answer is definitely yes! There are still numerous benefits to be gained from starting exercise at any age, including lower risk of some cancers, stroke and heart disease, not to mention the awesome feeling you get after a great workout.

Higher levels of cardio-vascular fitness are associated with lower instances of several disabling mental and physical ailments, including depression and obesity. Exercise throughout the lifespan has also been shown to slow cognitive decline later in life and can even be a protector against diseases such as dementia.

However, it’s more complicated trying to understand why higher levels of strength are associated with lower levels of disability. Scientists think it may be related to self-esteem and anxiety. It has been reliably shown that people with poorer muscular strength also have lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of anxiety, both of which have been shown to cause health problems throughout life.

The bottom line

LES MILLS workouts, particularly strength-based (BODYPUMP,) and cycling-based (RPM, THE TRIP, LES MILLS SPRINT) workouts are good for you at any age. But if you start early enough (between the ages of 16-19), is can be especially beneficial later in life – decreasing chances of several types of disability in adulthood, as well as acting as a defence against cognitive decline.


Mike Trott is a UK-based fitness professional who specializes in sports personality psychology and sports exercise physiology. He has conducted academic research into group exercise interventions and personality, exercise addiction, and foam rolling physiology, and is also a multi-award-winning Les Mills instructor, trainer and presenter.

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