Lifting weights for less than an hour a week may reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40% to 70%, a study has found.
The research by Iowa State University (ISU) in the US also showed that spending more than an hour in the weight room did not yield any additional benefit.
“People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two sets of bench presses that take less than 5 minutes could be effective,” said Duck-chul Lee, associate professor at ISU.
The results – some of the first to look at resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease – show benefits of strength training are independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity.
In other words, you do not have to meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic physical activity to lower your risk; weight training alone is enough.
Researchers analysed data of nearly 13,000 adults. They measured three health outcomes: cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke that did not result in death, all cardiovascular events including death and any type of death. Resistance exercise reduced the risk for all three.
Much of the research on strength training has focused on bone health, physical function and quality of life in older adults.
When it comes to reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease, most people think of running or other cardio activity. Lee said that weight lifting is just as good for your heart, and there are other benefits.
Using the same dataset, researchers looked at the relationship between resistance exercise and diabetes as well as hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol.
Less than an hour of weekly resistance exercise was associated with a 29% lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The risk of hypercholesterolemia was 32% lower. The results for both studies also were independent of aerobic exercise.
“Muscle is the power plant to burn calories. Building muscle helps move your joints and bones, but also there are metabolic benefits. I don’t think this is well appreciated,” Lee said.
“If you build muscle, even if you’re not aerobically active, you burn more energy because you have more muscle. This also helps prevent obesity and provide long-term benefits on various health outcomes,” he said.