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Endurance and resistance training impact the risk of heart disease differently

Physical activity is vital for health maintenance and heart disease prevention. Researchers studied how endurance and strength exercises differ in preventing heart disease.

Physical activity is a staple of healthy living. We use it to feel energized, youthful, and attain physique goals. Typically, we break down exercise in two ways: cardio and strength training. Both are crucial for overall health. Cardio is dynamic and challenging our endurance. Compared to strength training, cardio burns more calories. However, strength training is just as important. It builds muscle mass, which is linked to a higher metabolism.

While these two types of physical activity may seem distinct, some of their effects on the body overlap. Notably, they both reduce the risk of heart disease. It is under this premise that health professionals recommend physical activity for heart disease prevention.

While maintaining an active lifestyle is great for stroke and heart disease prevention, the science behind it is unspecific. Is cardio or strength training better for heart health? Is there a difference? Which should patients focus on?

Resistance training was more strongly associated with heart disease prevention

New research presented at the ACC Latin America Conference 2018 in Lima, Peru delved into this. Researchers found that static activity (i.e. strength or resistance training) more greatly benefits heart health. This is not to say that cardio exercise is not beneficial. On the contrary – both types make a huge difference in health. However, building muscle through weights was more strongly associated with heart disease prevention.

The research team used data from the 2005 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  Their cohort was 4,086 Americans who self-reported the amount and type of physical activity they engaged in. This was analyzed with risk factors such as high blood pressure, overweightness, diabetes, and high cholesterol. The researchers also accounted for age, ethnicity, gender, and smoking status. The survey subjects were grouped based on age range: 21 to 44 years old, and 45 years and older. They discussed their results in a press release by the American College of Cardiology.

Similar numbers of younger and older adults engaging in both types of physical activity

Among the participants, 28% of younger and 21% of older adults engaged in cardio activity, and 36% of younger and 25%of older adults engaged in strength or resistance training. Engaging in either type of exercise was linked with 30-70%lower rates of developing heart disease through risk factors. Markedly, this link was stronger for younger adults.

The similar percentage values of both younger and older adults engaging in both types of physical activity is a positive finding. It is great to observe that one type of exercise is not being favoured over the other, as they both still provide distinct benefits in the body. Future research should further distinguish these effects and how they elicit heart disease prevention more specifically.

Written by Amrita Jaiprakash, MSc

Reference: Glenn, Katie. “Different Types of Physical Activity Offer Varying Protection Against Heart Disease.” American College of Cardiology, 16 Nov. 2018,



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