Is Strength Training Good for Your Heart?
Many individuals automatically think of cardiovascular exercises when they consider workout routines that are good for the heart.
The heart-health advantages of aerobic exercise cannot be disputed. However, strength training can also significantly enhance heart health.
While often overlooked for its significance in improving cardiovascular health, strength training can be an invaluable addition in lowering the danger of heart disease.
Studies have suggested that as it relates to improving certain indicators of heart health, cardio and strength training are equally beneficial and in some cases, strength training yields better results.
The resistance training, which includes strength training, produced a distinct pattern of blood vessel responses when compared to aerobic exercise.
This is indicating that strength training has unique and valuable benefits for heart health. Higher increases in the flow of blood to the limbs were produced by resistance training.
In contrast, cardiovascular exercise decreased arterial stiffness; however, there is no increase in blood flow.
Also, following a workout, resistance training resulted in a longer-lasting fall in blood pressure (as low as 20 percent) in comparison to aerobic exercise.
Particularly due to its capacity to boost blood flow to active muscles, strength training could be an invaluable companion to a cardiovascular training regimen.
Women could gain the most important weight-bearing benefits can be derived from strength training to assist in preventing and treating osteoporosis.
Strength Training and Belly Fat
A recent study has found that men who increased the length of time spent strength training by 20 minutes per day had smaller waistline gain during the period of the study.
This in comparison to participants who increased stair climbing or yard work or who increased their aerobic workout by 20 minutes a day.
Not surprisingly, individuals who intensified sedentary behaviors like watching television gained excess weight in their belly area.
It was also found that, even though aerobic exercise by itself was associated with less weight gain in comparison to weight training, the circumference of the waist is a better health indicator in older people.
Furthermore, combining aerobic activity and strength training yielded the best results.
Engaging in strength training or, preferably, incorporating it into cardiovascular exercise could assist older adults in lessening abdominal fat while preserving or boosting muscle mass.
This underscores the significance of strength training in lowering abdominal obesity, particularly among the older population. To preserve a healthy weight and waistline, incorporating weight training with aerobic exercises is vital.
Other Major Benefits of Strength Training
Below are some of the significant benefits of strength training that can lead to a healthier, happier heart:
• Improved Blood Pressure
Research has found that strength training at moderate intensity lowers blood pressure significantly, even more than cardiovascular exercise.
This is true in both the short term, right after the workout and throughout the ensuing years.
Strength training increases blood flow while you exercise and recover from the workout.
By assisting you with building lean muscle, strength training ultimately provides your cardiovascular system with more places to store its blood. This reduces pressure on the arterial walls.
Additionally, this benefit could be even stronger in hypertensive women than their male counterparts.
• Lower Triglyceride and Cholesterol Levels
Fatty substances like triglycerides and cholesterol that are transported by the blood can clog the arteries.
This could result in strokes and heart attacks when the levels are excessively high. However, similar to cardiovascular exercise, strength training can lower their levels.
Besides lowering total fat levels in the blood, strength training could also enhance how high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, functions in the body to safeguard against heart disease.
The findings of a 2013 study revealed that regardless of weight, younger men who strength train regularly have better-functioning HDL cholesterol in comparison to participants who never lift weights.
• Less Visceral Fat
Frequently referred to as “belly fat,” visceral fat can be found in and around the internal organs of the body, including the heart.
As such, it should be clear why levels of visceral fat are most strongly linked to cardiovascular disease and death.
Studies have revealed that excess visceral fat has an increased risk of heart disease, regardless of the weight of the individual.
Strength training is key to fighting against visceral fat. In a 2015 study, participants who strength trained for at least 20 minutes a day gained lower age-related visceral fat over a 12-year period in comparison to participants who spent the same period engaged in the cardiovascular activity.
Strength training increases lean body mass, which accelerates the metabolic rate of the body. This has a secondary effect of lessening fatty tissue around the heart and in the midsection.
• Sounder Sleep
Poor sleep can significantly impact cardiovascular health. Sleeplessness triggers increased inflammation, which could lead to the cardiovascular system having cellular damage.
Studies have linked sleep deprivation to reduced fat metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and escalations in visceral fat, which are all risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
However, a recent study has revealed that doing strength training, particularly in the evening, could considerably enhance sleep. In the study, the participants who did strength training slept better than the ones who avoided the weights.
Furthermore, participants who did their strength training at 7 p.m. had the most restful sleep. They also woke up fewer times during the night in comparison to participants who trained earlier in the day.
Proper Execution of Strength Training Exercises
It is highly recommended that individuals who are initially embarking on resistance training consult with their doctors.
The suggestions below are also designed to help those who are new to strength training exercises:
• Exercise rhythmically, using a controlled slow to moderate speed
• Breathe out on the effort and breathe in on the return. For example, when executing a shoulder press, breathe out when you exert energy to push up the weight and breathe in when you relax to bring it down
• Alternate between lower and upper body exercises
• Avoid holding your breath and be sure to complete a full range of motion.
• Restrict the workout to just one set, two times per week.
• Use weights and the correct number of repetitions for each set based on your health status, age and frailty.
Healthy individuals starting weight training should begin with between 8 and 12 repetitions per set. Frailer or older individuals should use lighter weights and execute between 10 and 15 repetitions per set.
Make sure the major muscle groups of the lower and upper body are involved in the workout. This means engaging in exercises like calf raise, leg curl, leg press, quad extension, abdominal crunch or curl and lower-back extension for the lower body.
For the upper body, you can do exercises like shoulder press, chest press, bicep curl, triceps extension and lat pull-down.
It is essential when doing resistance training for the first time that you do not overdo it; your muscles need time to become accustomed to any new exercise. Being moderate in your approach to strength training will help you to prevent soreness and injury.
Strength Training Equipment
There is a wide range of strength training equipment available. However, the majority of individuals, particularly beginners, get the most excellent benefits from circuit-training equipment that can be found in most gyms. These include:
• Ankle Weights
These can be used to heighten the intensity of strength training during exercises like side leg raises and hip extensions. Typically, ankle weight sets are between 5 and 10 pounds.
• Hand Weights
Based on your strength, you should start with a pair of weights ranging between 5 and 8 pounds or 2 and 5 pounds.
As needed, you can add heavier weights. D-shaped weights and dumbbells that are padded in the middle are comfortable to hold.
Purchasing your weights from sports resale stores are great for those who would like to save money.
• Resistance Bands and Tubing
These can be used to perform a full-body strength workout. Their attractive features include portability, lightweight, low cost, and ease of storage.
With these, you will also be able to measure the difficulty of the resistance by the number of repetitions you can complete.
For example, if you are unable to complete at least 8, the resistance is too high; if you can do more than 12, the resistance is too low.
Putting your hands or feet on the band or tube farther apart or closer together, before starting the exercise, helps with varying resistance.
Having an experienced trainer to start your strength training is a great idea as well.
While it is no substitute for aerobic exercises, guided, moderate strength training is good for the heart. Aerobic activities such as running, biking and walking are still the essential methods of staying fit. However, to maximize the benefits of aerobic exercise, adding strength training is a remarkable idea.
Strength training not only increases the benefits of aerobic fitness, it seemingly provides the added advantage of increased independence, functional capacity, and heart health.
It also assists individuals in better-performing tasks of daily living such as lifting growing children and bags of groceries.