Fight Deadly Heart Disease with Exercise, Including Strength Training
We usually think of February as the month of hearts for Valentine’s Day.
But in the United States, February is also American Heart Month, sponsored by the American Heart Association, to raise awareness and to help people lose weight, eat better, invigorate their exercise routines and more.
Heart disease is the country’s No. 1 killer, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths and 735,000 heart attacks annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The good news: Heart disease can be prevented. Exercise and eating right are the top tools to improve our heart health and lower our risk for heart disease and heart attacks, according to the American Heart Association.
For people over 50, exercise, including strength training, is vital. As most people age, their hearts get smaller and weaker, and major arteries can stiffen. That reduces or slows blood flow through the body.
Weightlifting among mature adults improves heart health by decreasing blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol, while improving “good” cholesterol. Exercising and eating right also fight obesity, which contributes to heart issues.
Strength Training Tops Cardio, Study Says
Conventional wisdom has long held that running is better for heart health than weightlifting.
But research says that’s not so.
Scientists looked at health records of 4,000 people. They concluded that, while both forms of exercise lower the risk of heart disease, weightlifting has a greater effect than running, walking or cycling, according to the British Telegraph. The study also supports earlier views that weightlifting is better for the circulatory system because the “oxygen expenditure” is more intense.
Any exercise is good, of course. And weightlifting (or resistance training) also has other health benefits for people over 50. For example, it helps improve functional independence.
All adults lose muscle mass as we get older – unless we train to minimize that loss.
Science Confirms Benefits Later In Life
Other studies suggest physical activity is good for your heart no matter what your age.
Being active keeps your heart stronger and healthier than being inactive. The National Institutes of Health says physical activity can help control blood pressure.
That doesn’t mean you have to devote your life to the gym. Brisk walking – say, 20 minutes a day – is a great start. Regular exercise at a gym, fitness studio, pool or yoga class can bring even greater heart-health rewards.
The American College of Cardiology found that women over 70 who got at least some exercise were 11 percent less likely to develop heart failure than women who had no activity. Women with the most activity were 35 percent less likely to get heart disease.
Heart disease includes stroke, high blood pressure, heart attacks and coronary disease.
The research is consistent, but there’s still no easy fix. You have to do the work to gain the benefits.
We like to think of exercising as part of a healthy lifestyle, just like brushing your teeth and wearing a seatbelt. Healthy habits add up to a healthy life – and a healthy heart.