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By Emma Hogan for Fit Planet

If you haven’t made strength training part of your weekly workout regime what are you waiting for? Not only will it get you strong, lean and fit, new research now associates lifting weights with halving the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

You get stronger, you get fitter, you burn calories, you enjoy long-term fat burning benefits, and you even grow stronger bones. If these benefits of strength training weren’t enough, new research reveals that resistance training goes hand-in-hand with a healthy heart.

This good news comes from a team of US researchers who analysed the health records of thousands of men and women, delving into the details of their exercise habits and medical history over an 11-year period. The researchers considered how often people engaged in resistance training (not at all, once, twice or three or more times a week) and the amount of time they dedicated to lifting (more or less than an hour each week). They also considered whether people met the recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. All of this information was assessed against medical data – specifically incidences of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths.

The findings show that even a small amount of resistance training is associated with a lower risk of heart attack or stroke – remarkably, the risk of heart attack or stroke was roughly 50 percent lower for those who lifted weights compared to those who didn’t. Those who enjoyed the greatest declines in risk lifted weights twice a week for an hour or so in total. And it seems these savvy strength trainers benefit from the reduced risk even if they don’t engage in frequent aerobic exercise.

So is resistance training better than running?

While aerobic exercise such as running or walking has long been linked to heart health, thanks to another study there’s evidence that strength training could be the better option.

This study compared the cardiovascular risk factors (such as high blood pressure) and exercise habits of 4,000 adults, breaking the exercise into two types: static activities (strength training) and dynamic activities (running). Both types of exercise were associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors – but the static activity appeared to be most beneficial.

There is also proof that strength training packs more punch than expected when it comes to calorie burn. For a long time strength training has been mistakenly perceived as being relatively ineffective when it comes to calorie burn. But ground-breaking research from Les Mills Lab throws that thinking on its head. The study, published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, highlights how, even though strength training typically burns fewer calories than aerobic training, the calorie burn from strength training has a more profound effect on long-term fat burn. You can learn more about it here.

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