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When it comes to exercise, aerobic exercise — the kind that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping — has been considered the holy grail.
After all it does have some amazing benefits…
For instance, previous studies have shown that aerobic exercise could be your passport to having a brain that ages in reverse. Well, at least it can help your brain work like it did in your younger days when it comes to high-level thinking skills such as decision-making, problem-solving and attention span.
And what about the heart healthy benefits? There’s plenty of research to back those up to. But not everyone is able to keep up with aerobic activity. What can you do, then, to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke as you age?
Don’t give up just yet, new research shows another type of exercise may work even better…
It doesn’t take much for big benefits
Research out of Iowa State University is among the first to look at resistance exercise (weight training) and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, analyzed data of nearly 13,000 adults to measured these health outcomes:
- Cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke that did not result in death
- All cardiovascular events including death
- Any type of death
And, guess what…
Weight training reduced the risk of all three!
But the results when it came to heart attack and stroke were the most impressive of all: Lifting weights for less than an hour a week reduced those risks by 40 to 70 percent!
And, what was most interesting in this study is the effect lifting weights had on heart attack and stroke risk was independent of aerobic exercise. That means you don’t have to meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic physical activity to lower these risks. Weight lifting alone does the job!
DC (Duck-chul) Lee, associate professor of kinesiology and researcher on the study summed it up by saying, “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.”
In fact, the researchers found that spending more than an hour in the weight room did not yield any additional benefit.
Even more benefits with weight lifting
And, those weren’t all of the benefits the research revealed when it comes to weight lifting.
Using the same data from the study, the scientists also looked at the relationship between resistance training and diabetes and high cholesterol, finding that less than an hour a week pumping iron) led to a 29 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It also lowered the risk of high cholesterol by 32 percent.
When asked why the results of the weight lifting study were so impressive, Lee said, “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.” And, he continued, “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.”
Hit the gym (or not)
The researchers did note that it can be more difficult to incorporate resistance exercise into your life than it is to get aerobic activity.
After all, you can hit your aerobic targets just by taking a walk or using that stationary bike in the corner of your room. So, it might be beneficial to get a gym membership to have easy access to plenty of weight training equipment.
But, the authors of the study say that using weight machines or free weights isn’t an absolute necessity and that you can still benefit from other resistance exercises or any muscle-strengthening activities.
“Lifting any weight that increases resistance on your muscles is the key,” Lee said. “My muscle doesn’t know the difference if I’m digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting a dumbbell.”
To add strength training to your life without hitting the gym, discover how to workout at home for a brawny body and better brain.
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- Weightlifting is good for your heart and it doesn’t take much — Iowa State University