For years, in fact, for decades, conventional wisdom has said that the best exercise for heart health and a healthy cardiovascular system, thus reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack was going to be aerobic (with oxygen), also called cardio, workouts.
By the same token, conventional weightlifting training has traditionally been considered an anaerobic (without oxygen) exercise. As such, it was not thought to be the a very good option for heart health and overall fitness.
However, thanks to recent research, that is no longer the "set in stone" opinion of those who know about exercise and the health benefits of exercise.
Many medical professionals exercise researchers, and personal trainers have begun to recognize, and acknowledge, the potential heart health benefits of weightlifting, especially when used in combination with the more traditional cardio workouts...usually in the form of "interval training".
It was only recently, and in light of recent studies on weightlifting and heart health, that cardiologists have stopped discouraging their patients from weight training and weightlifting, and have actually begun encouraging to take up this form of physical training.
The world's best known organization on heart health, American Heart Association has published evidence that points out the benefits to the heart of working out with weights in a proper manner. This "about face" in opinion and stance 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...especially when combined with other forms of exercise...i.e. cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise.
For example, it has been found that increasing muscle mass and strength actually increases the resting metabolic rate, helping to burn excess body fat, while lowering blood pressure.
The benefits from building the muscular strength of the body's most important muscle, and improving heart health in general, are becoming readily apparent and should be desired by any person wishing to live a long and healthy life.
For the person whose heart health has been compromised, even the person who is already a heart patient, weightlifting and resistance training can be very important to preventing future heart attacks or other cardiac episodes.
In the final analysis, when it comes to your health in general, and heart health in particular, it is all about managing your weight, becoming more physically fit, being in better condition overall...and being stronger.
It's not brain surgery, but it is basic heart science.
When your heart is weak, even simple tasks such as walking up stairs, lifting groceries, or even going shopping can put a strain on it. If you become stronger from weightlifting and resistance training, thereby building lean muscle mass, these tasks become much easier, and your heart doesn't have to work so hard.
Carefully monitored studies have also shown that when people who trained by lifting weights had their cardiac output measured scientifically, the heart pumped stronger and faster. Like any other muscle exercising the heart builds stronger walls in the ventricle, the pumping part of the heart. Simply stated, strong ventricles mean the heart can pump more efficiently, and effectively, lowering the resting heart rate, which, in turn, 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 use lower weights, increase repetitions, and take shorter rests between sets. Starting and ending your workout with some cardio just adds to the overall health benefits. Light cardio at the start of the workout can also serve as the very important "warm up" prior to exercise.
Of course, gaining a healthy heart is not the only benefit of weightlifting.
It is also a fact, that a great many 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, a workout made up of anaerobic exercises, such as weightlifting, will not burn as much body fat as an aerobic exercise such as biking or jogging. In other words, 15 minutes on a stationary bike will burn far more calories then 15 minutes of weightlifting...at least during the workout itself.
However, research has shown that, up to two hours after a 15 minute weightlifting workout, the body continues to burn calories as the muscles remain in their 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 for weight management, heart health, and overall fitness.
While a good exercise program for heart health should include different exercises, and different types of exercises, weight lifting really needs to be part of your plan for health, fitness, and longevity.