Resistance Training Can Be Good For Your Heart, But Don’t Give Up Aerobics Resistance training, once a form of exercise primarily utilized by bodybuilders, has been touted recently as a new way to increase cardiovascular function and should be part of a regular exercise program, according to a new advisory in Circulation, Journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).
What Is Resistance Training?
During resistance training, also called strength training, your peripheral muscles push or pull against some force. This force could be gravity, such as when you lift weights at a health club or when you lift part of your own weight in a push-up. Or your muscles can work against another force, such as when you use a rowing machine.
Over time with repeated activity, muscle fibers get longer and thicker in the body. Subsequently, you are able to work against a greater force (lift heavier weights) for longer periods of time.
Isn’t It A Lot Of Work?
You may be surprised to discover that adding only 60 minutes per week (for example, three 20-minute sessions) of strength training to your current aerobic program is all that’s needed to begin seeing benefits. Taking these precautions will also put you well on your way to success:
Talk to your doctor and get advice before you begin a strength-training program.
Make it a habit to do a 10- to 15-minute aerobic warm-up everyday (a great way to get your aerobic training in at the same time). This increases flow of blood throughout your body and loosens stiff joints.
Stretch out. Tight muscles are more easily strained, so stretch the regions or muscles you plan to exercise before beginning. Hold stretches for approximately 30 seconds, and repeat the stretch at least once.
Make your strength training enjoyable by not lifting excessively heavy weights everyday. An appropriate level of efforts should allow you to comfortably lift a weight repetitively at least 12 to 15 times for two to three sets regularly.
Hit all of the big muscle groups first (chest, upper back, abdominals, buttocks, hamstrings, and thighs) and then, perhaps, smaller or small groups that you think could use extra toning (biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, calves).
Focus on correct form and not on the amount of weight that you can lift with ease.
Don’t swing your back to help you to lift additional weight. Consider using a full support belt for your lower back.
Always breathe naturally regularly.
Ask a personal trainer or exercise club staff members or anyone skillfull person to show you proper lifting techniques and the most effective exercises for any particular muscle group.
Finally, mixing strength training with aerobics (circuit training, jogging, biking, swimming) satisfies both your heart and your other muscles in only one workout.
So, there you have it. When implemented with care and thoughtful planning, resistance training adds an entirely new dimension to your current level of fitness.
Resistance Training Exercises Benefits
According to the advisory, as little as 20 minutes of resistance training just a few times per week can lead to a healthier heart. The recommendation applies not only to healthy individuals, but also to the elderly and those with mild heart disease, as well. However, the benefit is not high enough to beat aerobic exercise as the best way to increase cardiovascular fitness.
“Resistance training – specifically, circuit training – only increases cardiovascular fitness by 5 percent,” Schweighardt said. “Regular aerobic training – walking, running, swimming, etc. – increases fitness 20 to 25 percent. If you want to improve cardiovascular endurance, do aerobics. It’s the basis of any fitness program.”
Circuit training involves short resting periods between weight lifting repetitions, he said.
According to Circulation, although resistance training has long been accepted as a means for developing and maintaining muscular strength, only recently has the beneficial relationship to health factors and chronic disease been recognized.
Best Exercises For Health
Further, resistance training exercise is strongly recommended for implementation in primary and secondary cardiovascular disease prevention programs, says the advisory. This type of exercise is not meant to replace aerobic exercise, which increases lung capacity and burns calories, but rather to complement it, according to the statement. Both types of exercise can lead to substantially improved cardiovascular health.
“Many cardiac patients and middle-aged persons develop or can take part in chronic disease that can be favorably affected by resistance training,” state the authors of the advisory. They add that resistance training can be beneficial in the prevention and management of other chronic conditions such as low back pain, obesity and weight control, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Weight lifting’s benefits include increasing lean body weight (muscle), decreasing body fat, increasing bone mass and improving strength of connective tissue, Schweighardt said. It also can slightly lower blood pressure, improve glucose tolerance and the blood lipid profile, he said.
But a person with high blood pressure could see some negative effects if he or she started a weight lifting program without checking with a doctor first, he said.
“Whether you think you’re healthy or not, get your doctor’s blessing or advice before you start,” Schweighardt said.
In years past, many physicians believed that weight lifting and resistance training increased blood pressure and persons with heart problems were urged to avoid it. However, in 1990, the American College of Sports Medicine first recognized the importance of resistance training as an important component of a comprehensive fitness program for healthy adults, and many studies in the last decade have overwhelmingly pointed to the benefits of resistance training in an overall exercise program.
Moderate-to-high intensity resistance training performed 2 to 3 or 4 days per week for 3 to 6 months improves muscular strength and endurance in both men and women of all ages by 25 percent to 100 percent, depending on the training stimulus and the individual’s initial level of strength. Many physicians, too, state that as little as 20 minutes twice a week will lead to significant improvement in cardiovascular health.
Authors of the advisory stress that not enough is known about the effects of resistance training in moderate to high-risk patients to recommend it to these patients and encouraged further study. This would include persons with uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled arrhythmia, unstable angina, and those with heart failure who have not been effectively treated.