Can Strength Training Improve Heart Health? Here’s What Science Says

For years, the fitness world hailed cardio as the ultimate heart protector, leaving strength training in its shadow. However, a recent revelation from the American Heart Association has upended this narrative, highlighting the profound heart health benefits of strength training. This paradigm shift marks a significant milestone, as it brings mainstream recognition to the transformative impact of strength training on cardiovascular wellness.

Understanding the Insights

Contrary to conventional wisdom, strength training emerges as a formidable ally in fortifying heart health, boasting a host of benefits akin to traditional cardio exercises. The American Heart Association’s thorough examination, drawing from 96 studies, underscores that strength training can substantially enhance various aspects of cardiovascular wellbeing. These include managing blood pressure, reducing diabetes risk, controlling cholesterol levels, uplifting mood, and promoting better sleep quality, among others.

The Science Behind Heart Health Enhancement

Delving into the science, strength training mirrors the cardiovascular effects of traditional aerobic activities. It elevates heart and respiratory rates, fuelled by heightened oxygen demand during muscle contractions. Furthermore, the metabolic activity of muscle tissue aids in regulating blood sugar, improving insulin sensitivity, and modulating cholesterol levels. Additionally, substances released by muscles, known as myokines, play a crucial role in mitigating inflammation—a key factor in vascular health.

Practical Implications for Everyday Life

  • A Balanced Exercise Approach: Dispelling the notion of an either/or scenario between strength training and cardio, individuals are encouraged to embrace an integrated fitness routine that encompasses both modalities. By harnessing the synergistic benefits of resistance and aerobic exercises, people can maximise their cardiovascular health gains, leading to a cumulative reduction in overall mortality risk.
  • Empowering Personal Engagement: With a significant proportion of the population underestimating the benefits of strength training, the findings serve as a catalyst for individuals to explore this avenue for themselves. By bridging the gap between knowledge and action, people are empowered to incorporate strength training as a vital component of their wellness journey.
  • Overcoming Common Hurdles: Recognising prevalent misconceptions surrounding strength training, individuals are encouraged to adopt a tailored approach to make it accessible and enjoyable. Through empathetic understanding and personalised planning, barriers such as complexity, time constraints, discomfort, or resource availability can be addressed, paving the way for sustained engagement.

The groundbreaking insights from the American Heart Association shed light on the transformative potential of strength training in nurturing heart health. By embracing evidence-based recommendations and adopting a personalised approach, individuals can embark on a journey towards enhanced cardiovascular wellness. Together, let us break down barriers, cultivate resilience, and embark on a collective quest towards a heart-healthy lifestyle.


Paluch AE, Boyer WR, Franklin BA, Laddu D, Lobelo F, Lee DC, et al. Resistance Exercise Training in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease: 2023 Update: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2024 Jan 16;149(3):e217–31.

Want a Healthier Heart? Ask: How Often Should I Move?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking” quite a bit. Although it might slightly sensationalise the issue, it holds some truth. In reality, any level of movement surpasses the absence of it, and, for most people, increasing their physical activity yields better results.

A recent study, conducted by scientists at Columbia University, unveiled an uncomplicated yet efficient approach to enhancing heart health: “exercise snacks.” These consist of brief bursts of physical activity, such as five minutes of walking every half hour. The researchers discovered that integrating these “exercise snacks” into your daily routine can substantially reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic ailments.

But before you assume it’s a miraculous solution, let’s delve into the study’s intricacies to better comprehend the researchers’ findings.


Our contemporary sedentary lifestyles, characterised by prolonged hours at desks or in front of screens, have been correlated with cardiovascular diseases and elevated mortality rates. Although studies have underscored the advantages of taking breaks from sitting, the precise frequency and duration of these breaks remain ambiguous.

The World Health Organization’s 2020 Physical Activity Guidelines acknowledged the need to clarify this matter to facilitate the inclusion of more physical activity into people’s everyday lives. Columbia University’s researchers embarked on this mission.

The Study

The study encompassed eleven adults aged 45 and older, mandated to spend eight hours seated in ergonomic chairs over five separate days. Consequently, they were only permitted to stand up for bathroom breaks or scheduled “exercise snacks.”

Throughout the study, participants underwent various conditions, randomly allocated, with a minimum of four days between each:

    • Continuous sitting (the control group)
    • Light-intensity walking every 30 minutes for 1 minute.
    • Light-intensity walking every 30 minutes for 5 minutes
    • Light-intensity walking every 60 minutes for 1 minute
    • Light-intensity walking every 60 minutes for 5 minutes

The walking sessions transpired on a treadmill, set to a leisurely pace of 2.0 mph, equivalent to a very slow stroll. The researchers gauged vital cardiovascular health indicators, encompassing blood sugar and blood pressure, fatigue, mood, and cognitive performance.

Study Findings

In comparison to continuous sitting for eight hours, blood sugar levels substantially decreased when participants engaged in the “every 30 minutes for 5 minutes” exercise snack. Intriguingly, none of the other exercise patterns resulted in a significant reduction in blood sugar.

Regarding blood pressure, all forms of exercise snacks led to a statistically significant drop in systolic measurements compared to uninterrupted sitting. The most pronounced reductions in systolic blood pressure were evident in the “every 60 minutes for 1 minute” exercise snack (-5.2 mmHg) and the “every 30 minutes for 5 minutes” exercise snack (-4.3 mmHg).

Fatigue levels diminished with all exercise snacks, except for the “every 60 minutes for 1 minute” break. The most considerable reductions in fatigue were reported after the “every 30 minutes for 5 minutes” and “every 60 minutes for 5 minutes” exercise snacks.

In summary, introducing a 5-minute walking break every 30 minutes appeared to be the most effective in enhancing various health markers. Nonetheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that this study featured a limited sample size; thus, its findings offer valuable insights but remain inconclusive.

Key Takeaways:

  • Blood Pressure Benefits: The study’s outcomes imply that these exercise snacks could substantially influence blood pressure. This holds significance as aerobic exercise is frequently recommended as an initial hypertension treatment.
  • Prioritise Movement: Importantly, any form of movement surpasses prolonged sitting. Many individuals may underestimate the extent of their daily sedentary routines. Therefore, we recommend tracking activity levels for a week, either manually or with a fitness tracker, to heighten awareness and stimulate increased activity.

In summary, integrating short, regular bursts of movement into your daily schedule can be a pragmatic and effective approach to enhancing heart health and overall well-being. Remember, progress matters more than perfection.


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