Heart disease remains the most common cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC. That deadly toll accounts for one in four American deaths each year: about 610,000 annually. We’ve written about smartwatches designed to warn of heart attacks and Ford’s since-abandoned plans to design a seat that could detect driver incapacitation due to a heart attack. We’ve also found technology designed to speed emergency response following a heart attack. 

Researchers at Iowa State University published a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise that showed the benefits of strength training — specifically resistance exercise — in reducing the risk of heart attacks. The study, led by DC Lee, Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Iowa State, analyzed data for almost 13,000 adults in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study.  Lee’s team found that weight-lifting for roughly an hour each week was associated with a 40% to 70% risk reduction for heart attack or stroke. More than an hour each week didn’t result in further risk reduction. Notably, the benefits of resistance training are independent of any amount or form of aerobic exercise. 

According to Lee, “just two sets of bench presses that take less than 5 minutes could be effective.” Noting that most people do not have easy access to resistance machines or weight sets, Lee also pointed out that resistance exercise doesn’t necessarily have to mean going to a gym. 
“My muscle doesn’t know the difference if I’m digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting a dumbbell.”

The Iowa study also looked at relationships between resistance exercise and diabetes and high cholesterol. Compared to no resistance exercise, less than an hour’s weekly exercise reduced the risk for metabolic syndrome by 29%. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The risk of high cholesterol dropped by 32 percent with resistance workouts. 

Resistance exercise can take less time than typical aerobic exercises such as jogging or running on a treadmill. With the health benefits indicated by this study, more people may find the time in their busy lives to lift some weight.