You no doubt know that aerobic exercise like walking, cycling, and swimming can help your heart. But now it looks like strength training may be just as important for your ticker, according to research from Iowa State University. The best part? You only need to do it for about an hour a week.
In the study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers analyzed the health, hearts, and exercise habits of more than 13,000 adults. They were focusing on three health issues: Heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events that weren’t fatal; total cardiovascular events including deadly ones; also, death from all causes.
The researchers discovered that people who regularly strength trained had a much lower risk of all three conditions. In fact, lifting weights for less than an hour per week could reduce the risk of a heart attack or a stroke by a staggering 40 percent to 70 percent. “People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two (daily) sets of bench presses that take less than five minutes could be effective,” Duck-chul Lee, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology, said in a press release.
Lee says the findings suggest you don’t have to hit the recommended aerobic-exercise guidelines—30 minutes a day, most days of the week—to lower your heart disease risk. “The results are encouraging,” he says, “but will people make weightlifting part of their lifestyle? Will they do it and stick with it? That’s the million-dollar question.” Lee did note that while cardio exercise is easier to incorporate into one’s lifestyle, it is essential to attempt to find some time to also participate in resistance training. This can include daily lifestyle activities like gardening or lifting heavy shopping bags.