It can be confusing with the ever-changing information regarding fitness and what is best. One thing that remains consistent, however, is that exercise is indeed important to overall health. It is increasingly significant to incorporate routines that benefit cardiovascular endurance for heart health, especially given the rise of females experiencing heart attacks. Heart attacks are the No. 1 killer of both men and women. Exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, decreasing stress and reducing weight.
When thinking of heart-healthy exercise, the first choice often is aerobic exercise or often referred to as “cardio.” However, strength training is a key component in aiding in a healthy heart, as well. Aerobic (with oxygen) exercise is an activity that elevates your heart rate and makes your heart work harder and beat faster such as walking, running, biking or using a treadmill. Research has shown that both strength training and aerobic training are beneficial in improving glucose tolerance by way of decreasing body fat.
Strength, or resistance, training uses your own body weight or some sort of resistance such as dumbbells or tubing to build muscle. Here are the types of exercise and guidelines to improve or maintain your heart health:
• Moderate aerobic activity like a brisk walk or jog 30 minutes daily is recommended by the American Heart Association. You can break that down into 10- or 15-minute intervals throughout the day if time is an obstacle.
• More vigorous aerobic activity like running, hiking or interval training on a treadmill, where you are breathing harder and even at rest your heartbeat is faster. To gauge if you are working too hard, ask yourself how hard you feel you are working on a scale from of 1-10. If it is 10 you are working too hard. You should be able to speak and say at least three words but you should not be able to sing. For a moderate level between 6-8 and for a vigorous level between 7-9 and the level you want to maintain.
• Strength training is recommended two to three times per week allowing 24-48 hours of rest/recovery in between. Use a program that addresses all major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs and core. Multi-jointed movements can make for more effective workout both in results and time use. Exercises such as squats, lunges and pushups are good examples.
Keeping your weight within a normal range is important for overall and heart health. Muscles, in turn, makes you leaner and a more efficient in utilizing fat and helps in maintaining a healthy weight. Strength training increases your energy expenditure during and after the training. This aids in the loss of body fat while still maintaining muscle. Just as aerobic exercise elevates your heart rate, so does strength training immediately following a program. This is due to using larger muscle groups and/or multi-jointed movements repeatedly. As your body adapts, this results in a lowering of your resting heart rate, which is beneficial to heart health.
Exercising with a formal program at a gym with equipment designed for strength training is one method. Using a personal trainer, if only to get you started with proper form and a good program you can use at home or at your gym, is another option. Many local community centers also have facilities that are low cost and can accommodate year round.
If you have a heart condition or have not exercised for a long time, consult your doctor before beginning a moderate or more vigorous program.
A CLOSER LOOK
Resistance Training: Adaptations and Health Implications
By Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
MaryAnn Molloy is a certified personal trainer and the owner of Healthy Body, Fit Mind Personal Training, now located at Basics Fitness Center in South Portland. She can be reached at 370-1348 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.orgResistance training helps build muscle, and therefore helps burn body fat.