Pump It Up: Strength Training Tips for Bones, Balance, Weight Control
Not so long ago, lifting weights conjured up images of Arnold Schwarzeneger in his bodybuilding hayday; it certainly wasn’t an activity encouraged for someone at risk for a heart attack. Now, however, health experts recommend strength training for everyone to improve overall health and quality of life, even for simple activities like carrying groceries, opening jars and climbing stairs.Most recently on the bandwagon is the American Heart Association (AHA) with new guidelines published July 31st in Circulation. AHA recommends strength training as a part of your regular physical activity, even if you have heart disease (and your doctor gives the okay).
Benefits More Than Your Muscles. If strength training is performed correctly, says the AHA, it enhances the benefits of aerobic exercise plus increases function and independence in healthy older people and in those with cardiovascular disease.By building muscle mass, strength training will help maintain current weight, strengthen bones, increase endurance and improve balance. Studies also show it improves overall quality of life even for people well into their 80s and 90s.
Start Slowly. For the average person just beginning, the AHA recommends only one set of exercises at a minimum of two days a week. People with heart disease should start with less weight but perform more repetitions, enhancing endurance and the cardiovascular system as a whole.
Who Shouldn’t Lift Weights. Strength training is not recommended for those with unstable heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, arrhythmias or infections in and around the heart. Even if you’re healthy, it’s important to always check with your doctor before embarking on a strength-training program. If you’ve had coronary artery bypass surgery, for example, you’ll need to wait eight to 12 weeks to heal.
Bottom Line: Better Health, Better Bones, Better You! Done properly, strength training
is a safe and effective way to improve your health and stay active for years. But don’t let it take the place of aerobic activities; it should complement whatever walking, jogging, swimming or other “cardio” activities you currently enjoy.