Strength Training is Essential for Heart Health

Strength Training is Essential for Heart Health

Consistent cardio exercise strengthens the heart muscle and improves the body’s ability to utilize oxygen. Cardio-enthusiasts, however, may not be as healthy as they think unless they also include a solid, strength training regimen to their weekly line-up.

While the benefits of aerobic exercise are well-documented, the effects of strength training are a relatively new area of study. It wasn’t until 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association first issued strength training guidelines recommending a twice weekly practice. Two new studies examined the effects of muscle mass on longevity in adults. Both found adults who strength train tend to live longer. 

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Health Milton S Hershey Medical Center and Columbia University, conducted a study to look at the long-term effects of strength training on adult mortality. The researchers examined data from the 1997-2011 National Interview Survey linked to death certificate data through 2011. The survey included more than 30,000 adults age 65 and older. During the survey period, more than nine percent of adults 65 years or older strength trained at least twice a week. The researchers followed the respondents for 15 years through death certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics National Death Index. About a third of respondents died by 2011. Older adults who engaged in strength training at least twice a week had 46% lower odds of death for any reason than those who did not. They also had a 41% lower offs of cardiac death and 19% lower odds of dying from cancer. They were also more likely to be a healthy weight, engage in cardio exercise and abstain from regular alcohol and tobacco use.

To parse out whether strength-training had an effect on the adults who lived longer, given the overall healthier lifestyle of respondents who regularly strength-trained, the researchers controlled for physical activity level and people who reported strength training appeared to see a greater mortality benefit than those who reported physical activity alone. Hear that, my fellow cardio lovers?

It's never too late to start strength training for improved heart health.

It’s never too late to start strength training for improved heart health.

Previously Not So Healthy and New to Exercise? Stay Calm. There are Benefits for You Too

Those just getting on the exercise bandwagon, need not panic. Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine, a UCLA, found higher muscle masses and lower fat mass in patients with cardiovascular disease resulted in lower mortality rate in a new study published in the American Journal of Cardiology. The researchers found cardiovascular patients with higher muscle mass and low body fat had a lower mortality risk than those with other body compositions. The researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2004, of 6,451 participants who had cardiovascular disease. Each subject was categorized into one of four groups:  low muscle/low-fat mass; low muscle/high-fat mass; high muscle/low-fat mass; and high muscle/high-fat mass.  Those with high muscle mass and low-fat mass had the most moderate risk of cardiovascular and total mortality.

The study was done in heart disease patients, as the “obesity paradox” was first described in this populations of patients, but the results are similar to those we have obtained for healthy individuals in previous studies,” says Dr. Preethi SriKanthan, head researcher of the UCLA study. “I advise patients to do 150 minutes a week of exercise and do 50% cardio and 50% resistance training. The reasoning behind this advice is that muscle mass is better increased with resistance training,” he says.

Marathoners should get at least two strength training sessions in per week. Make the time and reap the benefits.