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Lifting weights is good for your heart

Lifting weights for less than an hour a week can reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent, according to a new study. Spending more than an hour in the weight room provided no additional benefit, the researchers found. The results — some of the first to look at resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease — show that the benefits of strength training are independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity. In other words, you don't have to meet recommended aerobic exercise guidelines to lower your risk; strength training alone is sufficient.

The researchers analyzed data from nearly 13,000 adults in a long-term study at an aerobics center. They measured three health outcomes:cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke that did not result in death, all cardiovascular events including death, and any type of death. Resistance exercise has reduced the risk for all three.

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 of cardiovascular disease, most people think of running or other cardio activity. The researcher says that lifting weights is just as good for your heart, and there are other benefits.

Using the same data set, the researchers looked at the relationship between resistance exercise and diabetes, as well as hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol. The two studies found resistance exercise lowered the risk for both.

Less than an hour of weekly resistance exercise (compared to no resistance exercise) was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The risk of hypercholesterolemia was reduced by 32 percent. The results for both studies were also independent of aerobic exercise.