When it comes to exercise, aerobic activity is traditionally recommended for a healthy heart, while resistance training is prescribed for gaining muscle. Many understand the importance of an exercise routine that combines both aerobic and resistance circuits, but a new study from an American University finds that resistance exercise (like weight lifting) also packs some cardiovascular health benefits.

“Resistance training is more beneficial than many believe,” says lead researcher, Dr. Scott R. Collier. The resistance exercises produced a different pattern of blood vessel responses than the aerobic exercise, suggesting that the former may have important and unique benefits for cardiovascular health. The resistance exercise produced greater increases in blood flow to the limbs – even though it also caused small increases in central arterial stiffness. Resistance exercise also led to a longer-lasting drop in blood pressure (as much as 20 percent) after exercise, compared to aerobic exercise. “The key is to educate cardio-only individuals to become aware that they will not look like Arnold Schwarzenegger when they wake up!” Collier adds that resistance training may also improve running, swimming and cycling times.

We have shown that using typical resistance machines that can be found in most local gyms for three days a week at a moderate intensity (65 percent of your 10-repetition maximum) for three sets and 10 repetitions can lead to heart benefits. You should complete reps at a slow rate to get the most effective workout from the equipment to increase blood flow which in turn leads to a healthier heart.