Lifting weights can help heart failure patients and elderly nursing home residents increase their strength, a study has found.
Research published in the journal Circulation claims a 10-week stint of resistance training among people in nursing homes increased their ability to climb stairs.
It also found older women who had suffered heart failure increased their muscle strength by 43% and experienced a 50% rise in the distances they could walk following a similar workout.
Experts are now recommending that people who do resistance training start out slowly to ensure they do not strain themselves, and then gradually increase the number of repetitions before eventually moving to heavier weights.
Scientists have known for some time that pumping iron is good for cardiovascular fitness, and calls for people with weakened hearts to do it have been growing over the last 20 years.
This is despite many heart failure patients thinking they should take it easy after suffering problems.
Study leader Mark Williams, professor of medicine at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, said: "Those folks are capable of exercise training benefits and certainly resistance training is part of that."
He added exercises such as lifting weights or doing sit-ups should be used as a complement to aerobic exercise.