Lifting weights for less than an hour each week slashes your stroke and heart attack by around 70 per cent, according to research.
Experts also say carrying heavy shopping or digging for the same amount of time offers the same benefit.
Scientists at Iowa State University analysed the link between resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease in nearly 13,000 adults.
They found pumping iron cuts the chances of developing metabolic syndrome – the umbrella term for high blood pressure, high blood sugar and excess body fat around the waist, which all lead to to coronary disease, strokes and diabetes.
Get fit: Briefly pumping iron cuts likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and excess body fat around the waist
The data also found weight-lifting for longer periods or adding aerobic activity to a work-out doesn’t enhance the benefits.
‘People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights,’ said Dr Duck-chul Lee, an associate professor of kinesiology, who led the study.
‘But just two sets of bench presses that take less than five minutes could be effective. 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.
Comprehensive: Iowa State University researchers analysed the link between resistance exercise and cardiovascular disease in nearly 13,000 adults
‘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.’
Although the study looked at people who lifted weights or used a weight machine in gyms, Dr Lee said you don’t have to go to the gym to get the benefits to your heart.
‘Lifting any weight that increases resistance on your muscles is the key,’ he said of the study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
‘My muscle doesn’t know the difference if I’m digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting a dumbbell.’
They measured three health outcomes, including cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke that did not result in death.
The other two outcomes tracked included cardiovascular events that ended in death and any other causes of death.
Lifting weights for an hour each week was linked to a lower risk of death among all three groups.
The researchers also delved into whether resistance exercise had an effect on other factors, such as metabolic syndrome.
Specifically, the team noted less than an hour of weekly resistance exercise was associated with a 29 per cent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
It also provided a further 32 per cent lower risk of developing high cholesterol.
That said, researchers admitted that resistance exercise is less easy to incorporate into the daily routine.
Namely, because gym access is required to access to a variety of weight machines.
BUILD STRENGTH, NOT MASS
People who have strong muscles are more likely to reach an older age than weaker peers, according to new research from the University of Michigan.
The researchers say that it’s never too late to take up muscle-building workouts – and may even be most important for older people to work on strength training than it is for younger ones.
But don’t worry about bulking up: the study authors found that it’s muscle strength, not mass, that makes a difference for longevity.
The team analyzed grip strength of more than 8,300 men and women that take part in their Health and Retirement study.
People who were classified as ‘weak’ were more than 50 percent more likely to die an early death than stronger individuals were.
‘Maintaining muscle strength throughout life – and especially in later life – is extremely important for longevity and aging independently,’ said lead study author Dr Kate Duchowny.