Weight Lifting: Good For Your Heart & Injury Prevention

weightlifting fitness man

Running is an ever-growing popular sport among professional and recreational athletes. It’s also one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise – and everyone knows the benefits of having a healthy cardiovascular system, especially in preventing injuries. Yet, running is not the only cardio workout. There’s swimming, cycling, plyometrics, dancing, and many other sports and activities that will work your heart just as much as your muscles.

But, according to new studies, there’s a new – but not-so-new – activity that may just beat running in being better for your heart. English researchers have found that weightlifting is better for your heart and overall health than running and even walking. Furthermore, it’s one of the best ways to prevent injuries.

Weight Lifting Is The New Cardiovascular Activity

When you think of cardiovascular exercise, chances are you think of an activity that requires a lot of bouncing, speed, huffing and puffing. However, just because you’re not gasping for air doesn’t mean you’re not working your heart. And, let’s just be clear here, you should never really be gasping for air as that’s a sign of incorrect breathing, which can lead to injury.

Despite the assumptions that most people make about cardiovascular activities, any activity that works your heart is cardio work. Granted, some activities work your heart harder than others, like running. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that these activities are better for your heart or overall health. Researchers found that activities requiring heavy static exercising, such as weight lifting, actually give the heart a better workout. This is due to how much oxygen is expended from the body. Heavy static exercising expends more oxygen than running as it requires more usage of the muscles, according to this study and multiple other studies.

The researchers found that the participants in the survey were able to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease by over 30% through lifting weights. Even more promising was the risk of disease was lowered by almost twice that amount when engaging in both static exercising – like weight lifting – as well as an aerobic activity like cycling or running.

Lifting Weights To Prevent Injury

Most people think of high aerobic activities as increasing their risk of injury. Indeed, high-impact sports do put more stress on certain parts of the body that can lead to injury if you don’t take the necessary steps in prevention, such as doing prehab. However, high-impact and aerobic sports aren’t the only sports that present injury risk.

Weight lifting is a double-edged sword because it helps both in strength training for injury prevention as well as presents its own risk for overuse injuries. Strength training is one of the best ways to prevent injuries. It helps increase your range of motion as well as reduce fatigue. Lifting weights is one way to do strength training. It improves muscle function, increases performance and efficiency, and helps the body handle stress.

However, by lifting weights improperly or doing too much too soon, you can end up getting injured. Regardless of the activity, you need to pay attention to your form, technique, and your body cues to know when to slow down or stop.

Lift An Hour A Day And Lower Your Risk! – Not Quite

So how much do you need to lift weights? Do you now need to spend all your time getting buffed up at the weight machine? Not, not so fast.

Although other researchers from Iowa State University found that lifting weights lowered your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 70%, it had nothing to do with lifting for more than an hour. Researchers found that lifting weights for more than an hour added no other benefits.

“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,” said DC (Duck-chul) Lee, associate professor of kinesiology, in a press release about the study.

Furthermore, these researchers found that you don’t need to do aerobic exercises with weightlifting to reap the benefits. They found weightlifters had the same benefits, if not better, in regards to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So, should you give up all other activities and focus on weightlifting? Not as exercise variety as the best for overall health. However, adding in weightlifting and other forms of resistance training will also lower your risk of injuries. The caveat: just don’t overdo it.