Strength training is better than walking or cycling for reducing the risk of heart disease

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Being physically active is the best way to improve your cardiovascular health as well as lose weight.

This is nothing new. However, when it comes the effects of physical activity on heart health, most research and recommendations fail to distinguish between the different types of physical activity.

One particular recent study – presented at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Latin America Conference 2018 in Lima, Peru – found that while all physical activity has it’s benefits, static activities such as strength training actually lower the risk of heart disease more so than dynamic activities such as cycling or walking.

The findings suggest that strength training is more beneficial, and the best results were with patients who did both static and dynamic activities, compared to those who simply increased the level of either type of activity.

In this study the researches measured a selection of cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and being overweight as a function of self-reported static or dynamic activity (e.g strength training compared to walking or biking) among 4,086 adults.

The research team gathered data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They then adjusted this data for age, ethnicity, gender, and smoking habits. Then finally stratified it by age groups – 21-44 years old, and those 45 years old and upwards.

They found that 36 per cent of the younger group, and 25 per cent of the older group, took part in static exercises.

28 per cent of the younger group, and 21 per cent of the older group did dynamic exercises.

They determined that taking part in either type of activity was linked to 30-70 per cent lower rates of cardiovascular disease risk, and the “associations were strongest for static activity and in youth.”

It was concluded that healthcare professionals should advise older patients that it will be beneficial to workout in the gym as well as taking walks or cycling.

The benefits of strength training

Strength (or resistance) training simply involves challenging the muscles with a stronger than usual counter-force, such as lifting a weight, or even just pushing against a wall.

By progressively increasing the weight or resistance your muscles will become stronger. You will be benefit from increased muscle mass, stronger bones, and better muscle tone.

The current national guidelines recommend strength training exercises for all major muscles groups including your chest, shoulder, abdomen, arms, legs, hips, and back, 2 or 2 times a week.

A set of at least 8-12 repetitions of the same movement is effective, although for better results, push for 3 sets of 8-12.

Basic Tips For Strength Training

1. Spend 5-10 minutes warming up and cooling down.
2. Focus on maintaining proper form and if you’re lifting a weight too heavy to maintain proper form for your full set, then reduce the weight.
3. Carry out each exercise at a slow, controlled pace, so that you don’t compromise strength gains via momentum.
4. Breathe properly during exercise. Exhale as you exert the most effort such as during the lifting, pulling, or pushing, and inhale on the release.
5. If you find a particular exercise is getting too easy, increase the weight.
6. Give your muscles time to recover between strength training sessions. At least 48 hours is a good recovery time.

Strength training can also be fun, and a great way to take some time out of our busy lives. With it’s massive health benefits it’s something we should all be doing, if even just for a couple of hours a week.