Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women, and anything a person can do to boost heart health is a positive – including exercise. The cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise are undeniable, but there’s another type of exercise that’s not mentioned as often in the context of heart health – resistance training. Can resistance training help your heart – and reduce the risk of heart disease?
Benefits of Resistance Training: Is It Good for Heart Health?
For a healthy heart that’s resistant to heart disease, you need good lipid levels – a high HDL and a low LDL. According to a statement by the American Heart Association and published on medscape.com, both aerobic and resistance training have positive benefits on LDL and HDL levels, although the effect is modest for both. Aerobic exercise has slightly more benefits than resistance training for lowering triglycerides, another risk factor for heart disease.
Resistance is now integrated into cardiac rehab programs for people who have had a heart attack because of the benefits strength training has for the heart health and for overall well-being. For example, people who have heart failure often experience fatigue and muscle atrophy, which reduces their ability to get around and do the things most people do on a daily basis. Resistance training helps to rebuild some of the lost muscle so they’re more functional. Studies show that resistance training is safe even for people with heart failure, although it should only be done under supervision after medical clearance.
Resistance Training for Heart Health
Resistance training benefits the heart in other ways too. It helps to decrease body fat, which, in turn, reduces insulin resistance, another risk factor for heart disease. With moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, most of the calories and fat are burned while doing the exercise, but high-intensity resistance training has a metabolic effect that causes the body to burn fat for several hours after the training is over. The increase in lean body mass also boosts metabolism, which makes it easier to get lean.
Cardiovascular Benefits of Weight Training: What about Blood Pressure?
Doing heavy resistance training causes short-term elevations in blood pressure. This may be a concern for some people with heart disease. For people with heart disease and difficult-to-control high blood pressure, circuit training using lighter weights mixed with short segments of cardio may be best.
Resistance Training for Heart Health: The Bottom Line?
Don’t give up your cardio, but don’t underestimate the cardiovascular benefits of resistance training. For best results, do both, but check with your doctor first.
Medscape.com. “New AHA Statement Touts Benefits of Resistance Training for Cardiovascular Health”