One in every four deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease. I stated this in December when I wrote a Blog post about the effectiveness of yoga in reducing heart disease risk factors (Can yoga be good for my heart), but there are many pieces to the heart health puzzle yet to discuss. My family has an extensive history of heart disease. My Mother died of congestive heart failure, my Uncle died of a massive heart attack, and my Cousin has had a stroke. Not only must I be vigilant in preventing heart disease risk factors for myself, but as a fitness professional I’m in a position to advocate for prevention measures that will lead to better outcomes for my clients and participants. It’s common knowledge that regular cardiovascular exercise reduces risk factors for heart disease. Also, as I discussed in my previous blog post a regular yoga practice can reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors as well. I would be remiss as a personal trainer if I neglected to share the ways in which resistance training can yield benefits to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors.
I’d like to preface this discussion by first defining resistance training. Resistance training involves strengthening one’s muscles by working against force from weights, bands, springs, or bodyweight (as we do here at BFL during personal training, strength classes, and Pilates!)
There are multiple ways that doing regular strength training decreases cardiovascular disease risk factors. The two primary ways this occurs are through increased lean mass, and reductions in metabolic syndrome.
Resistance Training Increases Lean Mass
When lean mass (muscle) increases, one’s metabolism can increase, and body fat percentage can decrease. Increased metabolism and decreased body fat can affect reductions in blood pressure. Furthermore, when lean mass is increased, circulation increases. Simply stated, this circulation increase occurs because of the increase in nutrients and oxygen needed to fuel those muscle cells. So, as a result of resistance training, the body forms new capillaries to bring more blood (and nutrients and oxygen), to those working muscle tissues. With more muscle tissue, and more capillaries the heart has more places to pump blood to (thus reducing the pressure in the entire cardiovascular system!)
Resistance Training Decreases Metabolic Syndrome
A research study conducted at Iowa State University, which was published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal in 2019 discusses these outcomes. The researchers who followed 12,951 participants, found that weekly strength training can reduce risks for heart attack and stroke by 40-70%. This study states that one of the ways that resistance training reduces the risk of heart disease is by reducing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a set of conditions which increase one’s risk for heart disease. One is said to have metabolic syndrome when they present with any three of the following: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high blood triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Participants performed resistance training exercise 1, 2, and 3x per week, and found a 40-70% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors (the higher frequency exercisers had higher risk reductions in that range). (Liu et. al, 2019)
I sincerely hope you don’t have as prevalent a family history of heart disease as I do. Whether you do or you don’t, the evidence is clear that resistance training is included in one of the many ways we can reduce our risks, and live a longer, happier, healthier life! If you’re not sure where to start our nationally certified Personal Trainers, as well as our group fitness and Pilates programs all offer many options which
include resistance training. Along with many of the benefits of resistance training, you can help maintain a healthy heart!
LIU, YANGHUI1; LEE, DUCK-CHUL2; LI, YEHUA3; ZHU, WEICHENG4; ZHANG, RIQUAN1; SUI, XUEMEI5; LAVIE, CARL J.6; BLAIR, STEVEN N.7. Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 51(3):p 499-508, March 2019. | DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001822