Strength Training Key to Protecting Against Heart Disease
By Vivek Sailam, MD, Cardiologist—Virtua Cardiology
Some might look for the fountain of youth in the medicine cabinet, cosmetic aisle or dermatologist’s office. But, the true key to staying healthy, vibrant, and independent may lie somewhere else entirely: the weight room.
Strength or resistance training brings a range of benefits that counteract aging-related declines, including heart disease. Studies have shown strength training can be just as effective as aerobic activity for protecting against heart attack and stroke.
However, only 30 percent of adults engage in muscle-strengthening activities twice a week as recommended.
Perks of pumping up
You don’t have to be a body builder to appreciate the benefits of strength training. Strength training helps you build lean muscle mass, which in turn allows you to burn more energy. You improve blood flow, reduce excess fat, and continue doing the activities you enjoy.
Strength training can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase your HDL “good” cholesterol and reduce your LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve sleep
- Reduce insulin resistance
- Eliminate the visceral, or belly, fat in your midsection and around your organs
Resistance exercises also lift your mood, relieving anxiety, anger, and confusion while expanding your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
Time to get lifting
You don’t need much time to reap these rewards. A recent study found that performing at least an hour of weekly weight training lowered by 17 percent the risk of developing metabolic disorder—a group of risk factors like high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar that can lead to heart disease and diabetes.
And you don’t need to belong to a gym or have fancy home equipment, either. You can use heavy household items like soup cans or water bottles, or even your own body weight.
But talk to your doctor before you start. He or she can recommend the best mix of aerobic and strength exercises for you.
Updated January 13, 2022