Combining Cardio With Resistance Training May Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk

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  • New research suggests that combining aerobic exercise and strength training lowers CVD risk as effectively as aerobic-only routines.
  • Incorporating strength training into regular exercise benefits people with health conditions such as obesity.
  • As usual, more studies are needed to establish the cardio benefits of differing levels of intensity.

In a groundbreaking study led by Iowa State University and recently published in the European Heart Journal, new light has been shed on the optimal blend of physical activity to combat cardiovascular disease (CVD) risks. Traditionally, aerobic exercise has been championed as the cornerstone of heart health, with recommendations often focusing on its unparalleled benefits. However, this study intriguingly suggests that dividing the recommended amount of physical activity between aerobic and resistance exercises can be just as effective in reducing CVD risks as an aerobic-only regimen. This finding could revolutionize how we approach exercise for heart health, emphasizing the importance of incorporating resistance training into our routines.

The Study’s Insights

The CDC-backed research offers compelling evidence that a combination of aerobic and resistance training holds the key to mitigating cardiovascular disease risks. Aerobic exercises, known for improving cardiovascular endurance by increasing heart rate and oxygen consumption, include activities like walking, running, swimming, and cycling. Resistance training, on the other hand, focuses on building muscle strength and endurance through activities such as weight lifting, body-weight exercises, and using resistance bands.

Boosting Heart Health with Resistance Training

Resistance training contributes to heart health in several significant ways:

  • Improving Blood Pressure: Regular resistance training has been shown to help lower blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease.
  • Enhancing Blood Lipid Profiles: It can positively affect cholesterol levels, reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).
  • Regulating Blood Sugar Levels: By enhancing insulin sensitivity and helping in glucose control, resistance training can be a valuable tool in preventing diabetes, a risk factor for CVD.
  • Weight Management: Building muscle mass through resistance training increases metabolic rate, aiding in weight control and reducing obesity-related heart disease risks.

Recommended Amount of Resistance Training

The American Heart Association suggests incorporating muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week. These sessions should target the major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. While there's no one-size-fits-all recommendation for the duration of each session, starting with a minimum of one set of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise, and gradually increasing to two or three sets as strength improves, is advised.

Exercise Intensity and Its Effects

The intensity of workouts significantly influences the benefits received. Moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise is well-documented for its cardiovascular benefits. When it comes to resistance training, both moderate and high intensities are beneficial, but they serve different purposes:

  • Moderate-intensity resistance training is effective for beginners and promotes muscular endurance.
  • High-intensity resistance training challenges the muscles closer to their maximum capacity, leading to greater strength gains and potentially more significant cardiovascular benefits.

Crucially, it's not just the type or intensity of exercise that matters but the consistency and integration of these activities into a regular routine that contribute to heart health.

Implementing the Findings

For those looking to optimize their exercise regimen for heart health, incorporating both aerobic and resistance training offers a comprehensive approach. A balanced routine could include:

  • Aerobic activities such as brisk walking or cycling on most days of the week, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly.
  • Resistance training on two or more days, ensuring all major muscle groups are engaged.

The groundbreaking insights from this study underscore the value of a diversified exercise regimen. By splitting physical activity between aerobic and resistance exercises, individuals can not only enhance their cardiovascular health but also enjoy a variety of workouts, reducing monotony and increasing the likelihood of long-term adherence.

The recent study led by Iowa State University and supported by the CDC marks a pivotal moment in our understanding of exercise and heart health. It highlights that a blend of aerobic and resistance exercises can match the heart health benefits of an aerobic-only routine, offering a broader, more accessible approach to reducing cardiovascular disease risks. As we move forward, embracing this holistic view of exercise could be the key to unlocking the full potential of physical activity as a powerful tool against heart disease.


Aerobic, resistance, or combined exercise training and cardiovascular risk profile in overweight or obese adults: the CardioRACE trial, European Heart Journal, ehad827,

New research finds half-cardio, half-strength training reduces cardiovascular disease risks, Iowa State University

Exercise Within Reach, American Heart Association Educational Experiences


Dr. Mark L. Meyer Dr. Meyer graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelor of Science, High Honors, in cellular and molecular biology, Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude. He attended the Yale University School of Medicine, where he also completed a categorical residency in Internal Medicine, served for one year as an Emergency Department attending physician, and held the title of Clinical Instructor in the Department of Surgery. During this time, Dr. Meyer obtained a J.D. from the Yale Law School, concentrating on medical ethics, scientific research law, and FDA law. He then completed a fellowship in Cardiovascular Diseases at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained Level 3 Nuclear Cardiology training.

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