Even a small amount of strength training may significantly reduce one's risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of global mortality, according to a study recently published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal.
"Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality," published in October, analyzed the medical check-up data of 12,591 mostly middle-aged Americans who visited Dallas' Cooper Clinic between 1987 and 2006. The study's authors categorized subjects by their reported exercise routines, including those who did not lift weights to those who participated in multiple weekly strength workouts. This data was then juxtaposed with the subjects' reported strokes, heart attacks and related deaths during the data's 11-year window.
The authors concluded that heart disease-related illness and death was 50 percent lower for subjects who lifted weights, even those who lifted infrequently, versus those who never lifted. Subjects who lifted at least twice a week for a total of 60 minutes were least likely to develop heart disease. Notably, this was broadly applicable to all subjects regardless of their cardio workout routines or lack thereof.
The study states: "Even one time or less than one hour per week of resistance exercise, independent of aerobic exercise, is associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Body mass index mediates the association of resistance exercise with total cardiovascular disease events."
Subjects who lifted at four or more times every week, interestingly, did not show additionally reduced risk of heart disease. The authors did not lend great significance to this finding. However, another study published in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism journal in September suggests that, contrary to popular belief, strength training, unlike aerobic exercise, can be adequately performed in less than one hour per week.
This is one of multiple studies published this year that demonstrate long-term benefits of regular exercise, particularly into middle age and beyond. In November, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that the aerobic capacity of people in their 70s who had exercised regularly for 50 years was at the level of people 30 years younger than them.