About Weightlifting and Heart Health

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Weightlifting and Heart Health

For many years, the conventional wisdom has been that the best exercise for better heart health and a healthy cardiovascular sytem, thereby reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack were aerobic (with oxygen), also called cardio, workouts.

On the other hand, conventional weightlifting training has traditionally been considered an anaerobic (without oxygen) exercise. As such, it was not thought to be the best choice for heart health and overall fitness.

However, that is no longer always the opinion of those in the know.

Today, many medical professionals and personal trainers recognize the potential benefits weightlifting can have for heart and lungs, especially when used in combination with more traditional cardio workouts.

In fact, until recently, cardiologists actually discouraged their patients from weight training and weightlifting, but that view is rapidly changing. 

The American Heart Association has published evidence that accents the benefits to the heart of working out with weights in a proper manner. This reversal ofopinion is not only because physiologists now recognize that there can indeed be an aerobic component to weightlifting exercises, but because ofthe overall improvement in condition and body changes created by weightlifting. 

For example, it has been found that increasing muscle mass and strength actually lowers resting metabolic rate, and resting blood pressure.

The benefits from building the muscular strength of the body's most important muscle - the heart - are becoming readily apparent for any healthy person. For the heart patient, weightlifting and resistance training can be very important to preventing future heart attacks or other cardiac episodes. It is all about being in better condition and being stronger.

It's not brain surgery, but it is basic heart science.

If you have a weak heart, even simple tasks like walking up stairs, lifting groceries, or even walking can put a strain on it. If you become stronger from building lean muscle mass, these tasks become that much simpler, your heart doesn't have to work so hard. 

Studies have also shown that when people who trained by lifting weights were monitored for cardiac output the heart pumped stronger and faster. Like any muscle this builds stronger walls in the ventricle, the pumping part of the heart. Strong ventricles mean the heart can pump more efficiently, and effectively lowers resting heart rate, which can lower blood pressure, one of the main contributing factors to heart attack and stroke.

By the way, you can get even more heart health benefit from training with weights if you try using lower weights, increasing repetitions, and taking shorter rests between sets.

Of course, gaining a healthy heart is not the only benefit of weightlifting.

It is a fact, that most people who have heart problems are also overweight or struggling with some of the other problems related to obesity such as diabetes.

Weightlifting is a great way to lose weight and keep it off by raising your metabolism and making your body burn calories more efficiently. 

Now, minute for minute, anaerobic exercises such as weightlifting will not burn as much as an aerobic exercise like biking or jogging. In other words, 15 minutes on a stationary bike will initially burn far more calories then 15 minutes of weightlifting. 

However it has been found that up to two hours after a 15 minute weightlifting workout, the body continues to burn calories as the muscles remain in an agitated state. For these, and other reasons, American Heart Association now recommends a 30 minute aerobic workout 6 times a week, and adding a weightlifting session of at least 15 minutes 3 times a week.

While a good exercise program for heart health should include different exercises, and different types of exercises, weight lifting really needs to be in there somewhere.

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Weightlifting and Heart Health

Page Updated 11:08 AM Saturday 7/19/2014