Most people are aware that any type of cardio exercise is beneficial to the cardiovascular system. However, recent research suggests that lifting weights or doing resistance training for an hour or less per week is enough to significantly reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke. In fact, scientists have found that small amounts of resistance exercise per week was linked to 40%-70% less cardiovascular health issues.

“I would counsel my patients that the research is very eye-opening and suggests that strength exercise is definitely a good thing overall and may have more powerful benefits than previously thought,” said Dr. Alon Gitig, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Riverside Medical Group in Yonkers, New York.

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Here are four benefits of strength training for a healthier heart:

1. Better Blood Pressure

While you exercise, strength training increases blood flow and gives your cardiovascular system more places to put your blood, thus reducing pressure on your arterial walls. This can help to regulate a healthier blood pressure and be advantageous for the heart.

2. Increases Lean Body Mass

Strength training speeds up the body’s metabolic rate and increases lean body mass. This is favorable because decreasing visceral fat that is in the abdominal cavity and around the body’s internal organs decreases the fat around the heart therefore decreasing the risk of heart disease.

3. Cholesterol Levels

Both cholesterol and triglycerides can clog your arteries which can contribute to heart attacks and strokes. Strength training reduces the fatty substances that travel in the blood, thereby lowering the LDL or “bad” cholesterol and trigylceride levels. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that young men who regularly lift weights have better-functioning HDL or “good cholesterol.

4. Improve Sleep Quality

Heart health is one of the first things to be affected with consistent poor sleep. Sleep deprivation can trigger inflammation and cause cellular damage to the heart. Performing resistance exercise, especially in the evening, can significantly improve your sleep by waking up fewer times during the night. Those who lifted weight around 7 p.m. slept better than those who lifted earlier in the day.

So if you aren’t already lifting weights and doing resistance training, add it to your cardio exercise for at least 1 hour per week for a healthier heart.