Doing This Just Once a Week Halves Your Heart Disease Risk, New Study Says


Keeping an eye on your heart health can feel like a full-time commitment, especially as we age. Unfortunately, finding the time each day to prioritize the right kinds of activities or diet habits can be difficult, no matter how open or tight your schedule may be. But a new study says that managing to fit in a particular activity even once a week can cut your risk of heart disease nearly in half. Read on to see what you may want to consider adding to your to-do list.

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Doing 30 to 60 minutes of strength training with aerobic activity weekly cuts heart disease risk by 46 percent.

The latest information comes from a new study published Feb. 28 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which examined how performing muscle-strengthening exercises could affect someone's risk of serious health issues. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 16 studies that included self-reported and questionnaire data about strength exercise habits from about 480,000 participants. All were aged between 18 and 98 and mostly lived in the U.S.

According to the results, study participants who performed muscle-strengthening exercises 30 to 60 minutes per week combined with any amount of aerobic activity saw their risk of dying from cancer drop by 28 percent, their risk of premature death from any cause drop by 40 percent, and their risk of heart disease reduced by 46 percent.

Doing strength exercises alone was still associated with a decreased risk of early death, diabetes, and heart disease.

Even without the added benefits of aerobic exercise, participants still saw considerable health benefits. Results showed that participants who did 30 to 60 minutes a week of resistance, strength, or weight training had a 10 to 20 percent decreased risk of early death from any cause, as well as developing heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.

"Many previous studies showed a favorable influence of muscle-strengthening exercises on noncommunicable diseases and early death risk," Haruki Momma, PhD, the study's first author and a lecturer in the department of medicine and science in sports and exercise at Tohoku University in Japan, told CNN in an email. "We could expect our findings to some extent because this study was planned to integrate previous findings."

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Lifting weights can help your body build more muscle to burn more calories, even at rest.

Health experts point out that the results are not surprising given the benefits weight training can provide to the body. "We know that people who lift weights, when they make more muscle, even at rest they burn more calories, which is always a good thing," Andrew Freeman, MD, a cardiologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, told Healthline. He added that it also could improve bone density, raise basal metabolic rate, and increase flexibility.

According to Anton Bilchik, MD, a surgical oncologist, professor of surgery, chief of medicine, and director of the gastrointestinal research program at Saint John's Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California, the exercises help the body in one crucial way overall. "The authors suggest that muscle strengthening is associated with preservation of skeletal muscle mass, which then plays an important role in glucose metabolism. Abnormal glucose metabolism has been associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease and cancer," he told Medical News Today.

Experts say it's easy to work in five to 15 minutes of exercise per day, but people should start slowly.

Experts pointed out that most people can manage a weekly goal of 30 to 60 minutes of weight or strength training a week with five to 15 minutes of daily sessions. This includes workouts such as deadlifts, overhead dumbbell presses, and dumbbell lateral raises, Nieca Goldberg, MD, the medical director of Atria New York City and clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine, told CNN. Adding aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, cycling, and swimming could provide the added health benefits seen in the study.

"[It's] great news for people who are active and greater news for those who are inactive as they can improve their health with a small time investment," William Roberts, PhD, a professor in the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota, told CNN in an email.

However, they also cautioned against immediately getting too ambitious with your exercise regimen. "You're likely to get a herniated disc or do something terrible, so always check with your doctor first and if you have orthopedic limitations, figuring out how to do strength training without hurting yourself is critical," Freeman warned.

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