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 It may come as a surprise to find out that weight lifting can be just as good for your heart and offer other benefits as well.
Research is concluding that weight training can improve cardiovascular health. Why is this? Strength training can increase heart rate and blood pressure to higher levels than many aerobic activities. Your heart is basically a pump that meets that keeps up with the intensity of the exercise, which will strengthen the heart as time goes on.
In one particular study, 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. Yet another study illustrated the risk of hypercholesterolemia was 32 percent lower. The results for both studies were independent of aerobic exercise.
Building muscle helps burn calories and aids in the movement of your joints and bones, but there are also 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 lowers the risk of various health outcomes such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and diabetes.
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 can be effective. Weight lifting 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.
You don’t need to go to a gym to start a resistance training routine. You can use resistance bands; use your own body as resistance and do push-ups, squats, and planks; or indulge in household tasks such as gardening to strengthen and build muscle.
The results — some of the first to look at resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease — show although there are benefits of strength training independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity, an exercise regimen of cardiovascular activity paired with resistance training provides optimum heart health benefits. For those at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease with an elevated blood pressure or hypertension, a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise training can improve diastolic blood pressure, boost lean body mass, and increase strength and cardiorespiratory fitness.
Schroeder EC, Franke WD, Sharp RL, Lee DC. Comparative effectiveness of aerobic, resistance, and combined training on cardiovascular disease risk factors: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2019 Jan 7;14(1):e0210292. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210292. PMID: 30615666; PMCID: PMC6322789.
Mark A. Williams, PhD, Co-Chair , William L. Haskell, PhD, et al. Resistance Exercise in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease: 2007 Update. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.185214Circulation. 2007;116:572–584
edited by Maria Pietromonaco