Experts go back and forth on how much exercise is really needed to get healthy, and to gain benefits that will limit your risk of developing chronic diseases down the road. Governmental agencies say to stick with the 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, while more aggressive researchers say you should get about an hour a day of moderate exercise.

Recent research published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings has shown that to lower the risk of developing metabolic disease—a cluster of symptoms like large fat deposits around the waist, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol levels that can to lead to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes—you only need to put in less than one hour a week of resistance training.

The study, which reviewed almost 7,500 healthy Americans who had enrolled in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study between 1987 and 2006, watched for the onset of metabolic disease in the data. They found that about 15% of the subjects showed signs of metabolic disease over the years, and that those who lifted two or more times a week had a 17% reduced risk of developing the symptoms. And less than one hour a week of hitting the weights dropped that risk a healthy 28%. Those who got after it in the gym more than that didn’t show any extra benefits or lowered risk of disease, but a mix of resistance and cardio showed the best results for beating back metabolic syndrome.


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“Few studies have reported on the health effects of resistance exercise, and this is the first such study concerning metabolic syndrome,” said Esmée Bakker, Ph.D. student and study lead author. “Our results indicate that a modest amount of resistance exercise, such as two 30-minute sessions per week, has the most beneficial effect. These findings should be included in the standard medical recommendations for preventing metabolic syndrome and future cardiovascular disease.”