Do this exercise one hour a week to prevent heart attacks, study says

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Working out regularly can certainly reduce your heart disease risk, but there’s a specific exercise that may lower your chances even more, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Iowa State University recently conducted a study, published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal, to determine the association between resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease risk factors.

To do so, they assessed more than 12,500 adults, with an average age of 47, who received at least two clinical examinations between 1987 and 2006. They recorded their medical history, specifically scanning data for cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes.

After analyzing the results, they found weightlifting was good for the heart. In fact, lifting weights for less than an hour reduced risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent.

They team spending more than hour doing so did not yield any additional results. They also said the benefits of strength training are independent of running, walking and other aerobic activity.

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"People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two sets of bench presses that take less than 5 minutes could be effective," co-author DC Lee said in a statement. "The results are encouraging, but will people make weightlifting part of their lifestyle? Will they do it and stick with it? That's the million-dollar question."

Although the scientists only looked at free weights, they believe people will benefit from other resistance exercises or muscle-strengthening activities.

They discovered resistance exercise was linked with a 29 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which can increase risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It also lowered the risk of high cholesterol by 32 percent.

“Muscle is the power plant to burn calories. Building muscle helps move your joints and bones, but also there are metabolic benefits. I don't think this is well appreciated,” Lee said. “If you build muscle, even if you're not aerobically active, you burn more energy because you have more muscle. This also helps prevent obesity and provide long-term benefits on various health outcomes.

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