LIFTING weights protects against heart attacks and stroke more than running or cycling, a study suggests.
Both types of exercise improved key measures of cardiovascular health but weightlifting was more effective.
The muscle-building exercises led to more reductions in body weight and blood pressure and fewer incidences of diabetes.
It suggests elderly Brits could get more benefit from carrying heavy shopping bags home on the bus than going for a brisk walk.
Researchers from St George’s University, in Grenada, analysed the health data and exercise habits of 4,086 adults.
They found 36% of those aged 21 to 44 engaged in “static” exercises and 28% in “dynamic” exercises, such as running.
The figures for adults aged 45 and older were 25% and 21%, respectively.
Engaging in either type of activity lowered cardiovascular risk factors by 30% to 70% but the link was strongest in static exercises and in the young.
Among the older adults, weightlifting lowered blood pressure, body mass index and diabetes but not cholesterol.
Activities such as running or cycling only reduced their BMI – but not by as much.
Among the younger adults, weightlifting lowered body mass index and diabetes only. Dynamic exercises lowered BMI but by a lesser amount.
Public Health England suggests 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week and muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.
Study leader Dr Maia Smith said: “Both strength training and aerobic activity appeared to be heart healthy, even in small amounts, at the population level.
“However, static activity appeared more beneficial than dynamic, and patients who did both types of physical activity fared better than patients who simply increased the level of one type of activity.
“One interesting takeaway was that both static and dynamic activity were almost as popular in older people as younger.
“I believe this gives clinicians the opportunity to counsel their older patients that they will fit into the gym or the road race just fine.
“The important thing is to make sure they are engaging in physical activity.”
The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology Latin American Conference in Lima, Peru.