Iowa State researcher DC Lee

How can you help your residents reduce their chances of a heart attack or stroke by up to 70%? Just have them participate in one hour a week of weightlifting, a new study suggests.

“People may think they need to spend a lot of time lifting weights, but just two sets of bench presses that take less than five minutes could be effective,” said Duck-chul Lee, Ph.D., an associate kinesiology professor at Iowa State University.

Lee and colleagues studied almost 13,000 people who had undergone at least two clinical examinations between 1987 and 2006. Participants self-reported their levels of resistance exercise, and follow-ups were done about five and 10 years later.

One hour per week seems to be the optimal amount of time. Those who lifted for longer durations did not see an increased health benefit, he noted.

“Building muscle helps move your joints and bones, but also there are metabolic benefits. I don’t think this is well appreciated,” Lee said. “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.”

Full findings appear in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.