Resistance training for around one hour per week could reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by 40-70%, according to new research.
Scientists from Iowa State University found that lifting weights 1-3 times per week, or totalling one hour, had a significant impact upon cardiovascular health.
Spending more than one hour doing resistance exercise did not lead to any extra benefits, however.
The results showed the benefits of lifting weights were independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity.
Around 13,000 adults were measured across 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.
The study reported similar findings for both all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) morbidity, meaning that deaths from any cause and the overall prevalence of CVD decreased with resistance exercise up to 1-3 times, or one hour total, per week.
Resistance exercise, or weight-bearing exercise, is well-known to carry significant metabolic benefits if done routinely, including fat loss and improved blood glucose control.
This form of exercise is particularly effective at growing and maintaining muscle mass. Muscle requires a significant amount of energy to maintain, energy that could otherwise be stored as fat. This is perhaps the main reason that resistance exercise supports weight maintenance and good metabolic health.
Alongside aerobic exercise, strengthening your muscles is another principle part of staying healthy and particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes, who have an increased risk of cardiovascular events.
“People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two sets of bench presses that take less than five minutes could be effective,” said study author DC (Duck-chul) Lee.
“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.”
The study is published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.