According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women accounting for 1 of every 4 deaths nationwide. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. New research shows that weight training can be beneficial as well.
Aerobic activity has long been recommended to help prevent heart disease. However, a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise last year showed a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease with weight training, independent of aerobic activity levels.
The Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study was conducted at the Cooper Center in Dallas, Texas. Data was analyzed and collected over 19 years from over 12,000 adult men and women. The analysis showed a lower risk of cardiovascular disease was associated with resistance exercise performed 1-3 times per week. Higher frequency (4+ times per week) or longer duration (>2 hours per week) did not show a statistically greater benefit.
Study author Dr. DC Lee from Iowa State University notes that further studies are needed to establish minimum and ideal intensity levels for health benefits. "In terms of frequency, we found one to three times per week provided significant cardiovascular benefits...we did not have data on intensity since it is not easy to measure accurately." The study authors state that reasons for the results may be "improved physical function, increased energy expenditure, and emotional factors such as relief from anxiety, depression or insomnia."
Dr. Lee points there are metabolic benefits to building muscle. "If you build muscle, even if you aren't aerobically active, you burn more energy because you have more muscle. This helps prevent obesity and provides long-term benefits on various health outcomes."
The bottom line is, movement is important. The best and most effective form of exercise for you is the one you enjoy and will do consistently.