Cardiovascular exercises such as running, biking and swimming have long been known to improve the body’s cardiovascular health. Heck, it’s in the name for goodness sake!
For this reason, millions of people looking to strengthen their heart and improve heart rate and blood pressure will often use such exercises to do so. However, while cardio exercises are a key ingredient in the quest for a healthy heart, doing them is not the only way.
It’s true! According to research conducted by Dr. Scott Collier of the College of Health Sciences’ Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University, resistance training has some similar effects as aerobic exercise in lowering a person’s blood pressure.
If you’re still not convinced, here are some reasons you should implement strength training into your heart healthy lifestyle.
1. Stimulates muscle growth
For many, lifting weights equates to bulging muscles. And for some, that is the desired goal, while for others, it is a deterrent. For those who are put off by big muscles, rest assured that strength training does not always — in fact it rarely means that you will have abnormally large biceps. But it does mean that you will have muscles that are needed for your body to function better so your blood flows better through your body.
So, forget the barbells and grab the soup cans, and start lifting.
2. Improves blood flow
Have you ever looked at your arms after lifting weights, only to find that your veins are bulging out? Well, the large appearance of your veins has absolutely nothing to do with increased blood flow, but the bulging muscles behind them do.
As your muscles grow through resistance training, your blood flow and circulation improves greatly, making it so that those veins you see are moving healthy amounts of blood to and from your heart.
Keep in mind, however, that your heart is also a muscle. And while it may not grow in size like the rest of your muscles, by doing regular strength training, you will increase its capacity to pump blood at healthy rates.
3. Decreases blood pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension affects about 85.7 million, or 34 percent, of American adults, according to the American Heart Association. This can lead to heart disease, stroke and even death.
The good news is that research has found that strength training can lower blood pressure, reversing the path that can lead to devastating heart problems.
And it isn’t just new research that says so. In fact, a study conducted back in 1984 and published in the US National Library of Medicine found that hypertensive adolescents who participated in weight training maintained the reductions in blood pressure achieved by endurance training. The study also found that strength training may even elicit further reductions in blood pressure.
4. Protects your body from injury
If you want to be healthy, you need to have a body that allows you to exercise. And a key factor in preventing injury is by keeping your muscles healthy through implementing strength training in your fitness regimen.
The American Heart Association recommends strength training at least twice per week, stating that doing so “gives you the ability to perform everyday activities and helps protect your body from injury.”
5. Helps you ease into an exercise regimen
Many looking to improve their heart’s health could find that aerobic exercises like running, biking, swimming and even running are difficult.
Dr. Collier stated in his research findings that “there are a lot of people with orthopedic or obesity limitations who can’t walk or run long distances. For them, that type of exercise would be contraindicated.”
By doing simple strength training and resistance exercises such as seated leg lifts or arm curls, you will get your body moving and your blood pumping so that you will eventually be able to do more.