Why Strength Training Is More Important Than Cardio For Preventing A Heart Attack In Your Future

We know that exercise is an extremely important component of a healthy lifestyle, but recent research suggests that strength training is even more powerful than cardio when it comes to keeping your heart healthy and preventing a heart attack.

By Gina Florio2 min read
shutterstock 1030957408

People who are trying to lose weight or get in shape often start with cardio—going for a run, attending cycling class, doing HIIT cardio sessions. While there are certainly many benefits to cardio workouts and they're said to be a great way to protect our heart, a recent study suggests that strength training is actually the best way to prevent a future heart attack. Mike Mutzel, MS, health and nutrition expert, shared the information he uncovered from this study, which suggests that the amount of muscle tissue in your body is a better indicator of your heart health in the long run.

Why Strength Training Is More Important Than Cardio for Preventing a Heart Attack in Your Future

With more than 226,000 followers on Instagram, Mike often posts useful information about nutrition, longevity, and overall health. On Tuesday, he posted a reel about a new study that emphasized the importance of maintaining muscle mass as we age. The study was entitled "Two-year changes in body composition and future cardiovascular events: a longitudinal community-based study" and it was conducted on 1,048 participants between ages 50 and 80.

"A study found that a loss of muscle tissue more sensitively and accurately predicts a future cardiovascular event compared to changes or increases in fat mass," Mike explains. "This is one of the first studies of its kind. I think it's very important because we know people who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond who are focused on doing aerobics training, endurance training, as a means to prevent fat gain, but that comes at the expense of actually causing or enhancing muscle loss, which is a more statistically significant risk factor predicting a future cardiovascular event in this study involving a thousand people."

The research found that muscle loss changes over the course of 5 years "more sensitively and more accurately predicted having a future heart attack compared to increases in fat mass." When you move your muscles, your body releases myokines, which are cytokines synthesized and released by myocytes during muscular contractions. 

"These myokines can go to the heart and prevent some of the pathologic remodeling that increases your risk for having a heart attack," Mike says. "And those myokines also go to the endothelial tissues of your cardiovascular system and help improve their functioning."

He also points out that endothelial dysfunction is linked to erectile dysfunction, so if you want to avoid both a heart attack and sexual performance issues, you need to lift weights regularly. This isn't only true for men, though. Women also lose a lot their muscle mass between the ages of 50 and 80, so in order to prevent the heart health risks as we get older, we should all be strength training regularly, long before we reach the age of 50.

Strength training doesn't have to be high intensity. You don't necessarily have to lift extremely heavy weights—if you do and you enjoy it, that's perfectly fine. But don't feel like it's mandatory in order to get stronger, build muscle, and protect your heart. Just aim to do resistance training 3 times a week, and those sessions can be bodyweight if you want to start simple. The most important thing is consistency. The more it becomes a habit, the more likely you are to keep it going into your old age.