How Lifting Just an Hour a Week Can Protect You From This Serious Condition

Hasan Variawa |

It doesn’t matter if you can only fit in one session, either

Hitting the gym is a no-brainer for protecting your health, but you don’t need to spend as much time there as you may think: Lifting for just an hour or less a week yields a wide range of health benefits, a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found.

In the study of more than 7,400 adults, 15 percent developed metabolic syndrome—a constellation of symptoms that raise your heart risk, including high blood pressure, blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol, along with abdominal obesity—over an average follow up of four years.

After adjusting for factors associated with metabolic syndrome, like body mass index, smoking status, and family history, as well as amounts of cardio exercise, the researchers discovered that people who resistance trained for less than one hour a week were 29 percent less likely to develop the syndrome than those who didn’t lift at all.

What’s more, they found that the risk reduction was virtually the same in people who performed any amount of resistance training, showing that spending more time lifting didn’t necessarily translate to more heart-healthy benefits. In fact, spending one to two days in the gym—equating to the less-than-one-hour benchmark for pumping iron—was enough to be protective.

That means the “weekend warrior” mentality—only hitting the gym on the weekends if you’re too swamped to go during the workweek—may be sufficient to protect your heart, the study suggests.

Still, the study did find that a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise was most protective at preventing metabolic syndrome, so fitting in some brisk cardio during the week can lower your risk even further.

Plus, being sedentary all week and then cranking up the intensity on the weekend can put you at risk of injury, says Jeffrey Spaw, M.D., a surgeon at College Station Orthopedics in Texas. These include things like ankle sprain, shin splints, and rotator cuff injuries.

More frequent exercise acclimates your joints and muscles to movement, which can be protective. You can reduce your risk by performing a wider variety of physical activities—like cycling along with lifting—to strengthen different muscles. A proper warmup is vital, too, he says.

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