A well-rounded physical-activity program that combines strength and weight-resistance training with aerobic activity is good for your heart and your overall health. Strength training gets results fast–do it twice a week for a few weeks and you’ll start to see and feel your body change, compared with three times a week with aerobics. Working out with weights can also reduce blood pressure, improve insulin risk of falls. Your quality of life will improve and you will be able to live independently for longer.
“The idea that people with certain heart conditions should completely avoid weight training is false,” says Kerry Stewart, director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University. “Exercise is for everybody. If you can do aerobic activity, you should be able to do resistance (weight) training.”
Strength training strengthens the heart as well as other muscles. The biggest benefit of strength training is that it dramatically increases muscle mass, which aerobic activity does not do. More muscle mass makes you stronger and increases your basal metabolic rate. Muscle cells, even at rest, burn more calories than fat cells.
Muscle strengthening can help prevent and limit heart disease by reducing some risk factors. There is good evidence that resistance training reduces total body fat. Weight training increase lean muscle mass and maintains body strength, so you’re able to do more or perform higher levels of aerobic activity. Multiple studies show that strength training lowers blood pressure an average 3mm of mercury, which is enough to reduce your risk of a stroke or of dying of a heart attack. Blood pressure does increase slightly just as you lift a weight, but this fleeting stress on the heart is less than it would be with aerobic activity, Stewart says. A bigger metabolic engine allows you to process glucose better or, if you have diabetes, to control blood sugar levels.
Research shows that muscle strengthening will protect you against bone loss and reduce your risk of dying from all causes. “Muscle strengthening helps prevent frailty and falls,” says Stewart. “Most people think weak bones cause fractures, but actually, its falls.” Weight training can help prevent falls and improve bone mineral density so that your bones are less susceptible to osteoporosis.
Resistance training can help improve your quality of life and allow you to maintain your independence. Stronger muscles, for example, will make it easier to climb stairs or lift a bag of groceries.
To maintain your health, exercise guidelines suggest you do two days of strength training each week, in addition to moderate aerobic activity for 30 minutes, five days a week. A regular regimen of 8 to 10 resistance exercises using the major muscle groups, on two nonconsecutive days, allows time for your muscles to adapt, which reduces the potential for excessive muscle soreness and injury. Once you start lifting weights, you will gain self-confidence and be able – and want – to do even more, Stewart says.
Author: Mark Fuerst is a Brooklyn-based health and medical writer
The American Legion Magazine -Apr. 2011