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. Weight lifting is just as good for your heart, and there are other benefits.
Less than an hour of weekly resistance exercise (compared with no resistance exercise) was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The risk of hypercholesterolemia was 32 percent 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. 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.
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 can be effective. Lifting weights for less than an hour a week may reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent, according to a new Iowa State University study. Spending more than an hour in the weight room did not yield any additional benefit, the researchers found. 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.
The results are encouraging, but will people make weightlifting part of their lifestyle? Will they do it and stick with it? That’s the million-dollar question.