Exercise for heart health. What are you missing?
Article by: Tim Sutcliffe – Gym Manager Inside Out Health Club
Cardio (aerobic) exercise is often touted as the best exercise for heart health. After all, a body of research supports how it can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. As well as reduce plaque build up to improve blood flow, and help maintain a healthy weight. However there is a form of training can be overlooked for heart health. That is strength training!
People often have the common misconception that lifting weights (resistance training) will make you bulky. Or even that you have to train 7 days a week for it to be worth your while. In general that is not the case and quite the opposite.
How do I get started with lifting weights?
There are many benefits to lifting weights in a moderate volume. From simple stuff like the luxury of being able to sit on the toilet or climb stairs without help to playing, or with your children without tiring.
Studies have shown weight training for as little as 1 hour a week can improve your cardiovascular health. As well as reduce the chance of a health attack by 40 to 70 percent and reduce the risk of diabetes.
How much should I train?
Less than an hour of weekly resistance exercise (compared with no resistance exercise) can be associated with a 29 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The risk of hypercholesterolemia was 32 percent lower. The results for both studies also were independent of aerobic exercise.
Muscle is the power house to burn calories. Building muscle helps move and strengthen your joints and bones. It also has metabolic benefits. This is not this always appreciated. If you build muscle. In simple terms, even if you’re not aerobically active, you burn more energy because you have more muscle. This also helps prevent obesity and provide long-term benefits on various health outcomes.
But enough of what I have to say, here’s what the science has to say. A study in the March 2019 Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined the exercise habits of almost 13,000 adults (average age 47) who did not have cardiovascular disease. The results. Those who did at least an hour per week of weight training (using free weights or weight machines) had a 40% to 70% lower risk of heart attack or stroke compared with those who did not exercise. They found similar results in people who did and did not do cardio exercise.
It didn’t matter if they worked out once, twice, or three times a week as long as they hit the hour mark. And lifting longer than an hour per week was not associated with any additional cardiovascular benefit.
While this study only showed an association, other research has looked at how weight training specifically helps your heart. One possible reason is that it reduces a type of heart fat linked to cardiovascular disease.
Another study published online July 3, 2019, by JAMA Cardiology recruited 32 adults who were obese and sedentary. The participants did not have heart disease, diabetes, or atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke).
All the participants had an MRI of their heart and were randomly assigned to a three-month program of aerobic exercise, weight training, or no exercise. The weight training program consisted of doing three to five sets of 10 exercises, three times per week.
Compared with the no-exercise group, those in the aerobics and weight training groups had less fat directly touching the heart, by 32% and 24%, respectively. However, only those in the weight training group had decreased fat that lies just outside the heart sac (called the pericardium). Having less fat in and around the pericardium is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
Strength training has many benefits but it isn’t just lifting weights in a gym. It can be achieved using other methods, such as callisthenics (body weight exercises), Pilates and yoga. Take the first steps and start strength training.