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Lifting Heavy Things Can Reduce Heart Attacks by 40-70%

A new study shows that lifting something heavy, for less than one hour per week, with or without any cardio exercise, can reduce your risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.

By
Brock Armstrong,
Photo of a family carrying shopping bags

As we already know, getting out there and lifting something heavy has been shown to:

  • Improve muscle strength and tone,
  • protect your joints from injury,
  • improve flexibility, posture, and balance,
  • help you remain independent as you age,
  • increase muscle-to-fat ratio,
  • prevent cognitive decline,
  • gain better stamina,
  • help with pain management,
  • decrease risk of injury,
  • increase bone density,
  • boost your self-confidence,
  • improve sleep quality,
  • and enhance performance in your chosen sport as well as everyday tasks.

And now it has been shown to reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent, according to an Iowa State University study.

In the study, 12,591 participants (averaging 47 years old) received at least two clinical examinations between the years 1987 and 2006. During that time, their health was monitored by their doctor and their resistance exercise (heavy lifting) was assessed using a self-reported medical history questionnaire.

The researchers measured three health outcomes during the study: cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke that did not result in death, all cardiovascular events including death, and any type of death. The head researcher, DC (Duck-chul) Lee, associate professor of kinesiology, concluded that resistance exercise reduced the risk for all three.

My muscle doesn't know the difference if I'm digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags, or lifting a dumbbell.

Lee concludes that "Lifting any weight that increases resistance on your muscles is the key. My muscle doesn't know the difference if I'm digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags, or lifting a dumbbell." And to me, that is the most important takeaway.

We’re not talking about getting an expensive gym membership and forcing yourself to pump iron every day. We’re simply talking about lifting some heavy stuff for less than one hour per week! Look around your home or your office. I bet there are some heavy items nearby that would fit the bill. A really easy win would be to do your grocery shopping on foot and walk home with your comestibles in a backpack or cloth bag in each hand—or both!

Stop avoiding the heavy items and muscle building chores, they could someday save your life!

Most research on strength or resistance training has traditionally been focused on bone health, physical function, hormone health, sports performance, and quality of life. And also traditionally, when we think of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, we usually think of running or other “cardio” activities. This study shows us that weightlifting is just as good for your heart, and there are other benefits too.

Using the same information gathered during this study, a Mayo Clinic Proceedings publication showed a 29 percent lowered incidence of diabetes, as well as 32 percent lower incidence of hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol). These results were also only based on resistance training and independent of aerobic exercise.

The researchers stated that "Building muscle helps move your joints and bones, but also there are metabolic benefits. I don't think this is well appreciated."

In other words, if you build muscle, you burn more energy because of that muscle. This helps prevent cardiovascular disease and also provides many other long-term benefits on all those health parameters that I listed above.

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