Lifting weights is healthier for the heart than going for a run or a walk, new research has found.
Scientists looking at the health records of more than 4,000 people have concluded that, while both forms of exercise reduce the risk of developing heart disease, static activities such as weight lifting or press-ups have a greater effect than an equivalent amount of dynamic exercise such as running, walking or cycling.
The research challenges commonly held assumption that so-called “cardiovascular” pursuits like running are of greatest benefit to the heart.
However, it backs up previous studies which suggest that heavy static exercise gives the circulatory system a better workout because the oxygen expenditure is more intense.
The Chief Medical Officer for England recommends that adults take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, comprising a mixture of dynamic and static activity.
Professor Dr Maia Smith, who led the research at St George’s University, Grenada, said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.
“Clinicians should counsel patients to exercise regardless – both activity types were beneficial.
“However, static activity appeared more beneficial than dynamic, and patients who did both types of physical activity fared better than patients who simply increased the level of one type of activity.”
Researchers analysed cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, overweight, diabetes and high cholesterol, as a function of self-reported static and/or dynamic activity in 4,086 American adults.
They took part in the 2005 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The researchers then adjusted for age, ethnicity, gender and smoking and stratified by age, 21 to 44 years old or over 45.
In total, 36 per cent of younger and 25 per cent of older adults engaged in static activity, and 28 per cent of younger and 21 per cent of older adults engaged in dynamic activity.
Researchers found engaging in either type of activity was associated with 30 to 70 per cent lower rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors, but associations were strongest for static activity and in youth.
Prof Smith said: “One interesting takeaway was that both static and dynamic activity were almost as popular in older people as younger.
“I believe this gives clinicians the opportunity to counsel their older patients that they will fit into the gym or the road race just fine.
“The important thing is to make sure they are engaging in physical activity.”
The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology Latin America Conference 2018 in Lima, Peru.