When it comes to heart health, mainstream doctors recommend one form of exercise above all others: cardio.
It’s why so many people spend long hours jogging, biking, or using various cardio exercise machines.
But a surprising study shows that another type of workout brings major heart benefits in a fraction of the time.
Lifting weights for less than 10 minutes a day cuts your risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 70%. That was the conclusion of research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Professor Duck-chul Lee was the lead author. He said that even “just two sets of bench presses that take less than five minutes could be effective.”
His data showed that weight training provides heart benefits independent of other types of exercise. In other words, you could lift weights and do no other exercise…and still reduce your heart attack and stroke risk.
Professor Lee and his colleagues analyzed data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. It included about 13,000 subjects.
The researchers looked at three categories of people:
- Those who had a non-fatal heart attack or stroke.
- Those who had a fatal heart attack or stroke.
- Those who died for any reason.
The study found that strength exercise reduced risk in all three categories.
Professor Lee points out that a gym membership is not necessary for weight training.
“Lifting any weight that increases resistance on your muscles is the key,” he says. “My muscle doesn’t know the difference if I’m digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags, or lifting a dumbbell.”
And unlike jogging, you don’t need a major time investment.
In fact, the study showed that lifting for more than an hour a week did not bring more heart benefits than doing a strength workout that was less than an hour.
3 Surprising Benefits of Resistance Exercise
Pumping iron has other unexpected benefits. They include:
- Better sleep. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that strength training leads to better sleep. Especially when done in the evening. A good night’s sleep lowers your risk of diabetes, depression, and obesity. And it improves your immune system and raises testosterone levels in men.
- Less belly fat. Excess fat in your abdominal cavity is linked with heart disease and death. A study in the journal Obesity looked at 10,500 men. Over a 12-year period, those who weight trained for 20 minutes daily gained less belly fat. This is because growing your muscles speeds up your metabolic rate.
- Protection from falling. Brad Schoenfeld is the director of the Human Performance Lab at New York City’s Lehman College. He points out that muscle mass declines as you get older. This is a big part of the reason older people fall—and suffer serious, even fatal injuries. But with improved strength comes better balance.
Cardio is important. But so is strength training…especially if you want to reduce your risk of a heart attack.
Editor’s Note: There is a heart attack risk factor that is 10 times more dangerous than cholesterol. But mainstream doctors don’t test for it. And statins actually make it worse.