Cardio plus strength training lowers cardiovascular disease risk profile in overweight or obese individuals

Image of two overweight women running

New NHLBI-funded research finds that in adults with overweight or obesity, strength training plus cardio or cardio alone, can improve cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.

Physical activity, particularly cardio exercise like running or cycling, has been well established to prevent CVD, yet few research studies have directly tested which exercises or combination of exercises may have the strongest cardiovascular benefits. In a randomized controlled clinical trial, 406 adults aged 35–70 years with overweight or obesity and elevated blood pressure were randomly assigned to one of four groups: strength training alone, cardio alone, strength training plus cardio, or a no-exercise control group. After one year, the researchers compared the change from baseline in four well-established CVD risk factors: systolic blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, fasting glucose, and percent body fat. The researchers found that CVD risk profile improved in the cardio alone and combined strength training plus cardio groups, but not in the strength training alone group, suggesting that cardio should be included to improve the CVD risk profile in overweight or obese adults.

“Resistance exercise may be considered as an addition to aerobic exercise, rather than a substitute,” note the study authors. 

The study published in the European Heart Journal.