Aerobic exercise is what most cardiologists recommend for their heart patients. Indeed, fast walking to bicycling to jogging, are perfect examples of movement for improving heart health. Research has shown cardio exercise protects heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, reducing stress, and reducing plaque buildup that increase risk for heart attack or stroke.
But what if cardio exercise is not for you? Maybe you have bad knees, low endurance or other physical limitations excluding your ability to perform aerobic exercises. Or you’re simply not interested in running long distances or swimming laps in the pool.
Luckily, there is another form of movement that is just as effective for heart health – weight training. Better yet, the time spent lifting weights can often be less than the time spent jogging or swimming laps to reap heart healthy benefits.
Why weight training for heart health?
Most of us know that resistance training helps to build muscle bulk, strength, and endurance. Less well known is that weight training also helps prevent and manage several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
Here’s a look at why pumping iron can strengthen your heart and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke:
- Improves circulation
To have good health, you need good circulation. Good circulation helps the body get the necessary oxygen and nutrients it needs. When blood vessels are clear and obstruction-free, blood flow freely circulates throughout, easing the workload of the heart.
- Reduces risk of heart attack or stroke
One of the biggest benefits of weight lifting is lowering the probability of life-altering heart attacks or strokes. A 2019 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, looked at almost 13,000 adults (average age 47) without cardiovascular disease. Findings showed that the adults who did at least an hour per week of weight training (using free weights or weight machines) had a 40% to 70% lower risk of heart attacks and strokes compared to adults who did not exercise.
- Improves quality of sleep
As your cardiovascular health improves by pumping iron, you will also experience better sleep. A marker of good heart health is quality sleep, ideally for seven to eight hours each night. People sleeping less than six hours per night tend to have more cardiovascular risks such as higher blood pressure, higher blood sugar which can lead to diabetes, more inflammation, and obesity.
Insufficient sleep is also associated with increased calcium buildup in the heart’s arteries. This buildup of calcium in the arteries causes plaque buildup, increasing risk of heart attacks.
- Fights belly fat
Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is found around your internal organs such as the heart. With consistent weight lifting, you’ll have less belly fat and more lean muscle mass. Reducing belly fat will help you reduce your risk of heart disease and death.
- Reduces metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that can significantly increased risk of heart attack or stroke. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and high blood sugar, the perfect storm for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Lifting weights makes sense as it helps you build more muscle, which in turn allows you to burn more energy. This can reduce excess fat and improve blood flow, both of which are linked with greater heart health.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.