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Improving Heart Health Through Strength Training

March 23, 2020


Aerobic exercise has long been established as an effective intervention for improving cardiovascular or heart health markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, and aerobic capacity (VO2 max). It was provided a significant head start among researchers studying the impact of exercise on measurements of health. Resistance or strength training was initially studied on its’ ability to improve muscle performance including strength, power, endurance, and sport specific measurements. More recently, researchers have started to examine the impact of this form of exercise on the same clinical measures of heart health utilized in aerobic training studies.

A large review of the available evidence on strength training and cardiovascular health outcomes was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (Ashton et al. 2018). Authors identified research studies on the impact of this form of exercise on these outcomes in both healthy populations and those with diagnosed cardiovascular disease. They included 173 randomized controlled trials for a total of approximately 6200 participants. Authors reported reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, as well as, improvements in levels of insulin and insulin resistance. Greater improvements were noted in individuals with cardiovascular diagnoses than healthy individuals. Importantly, few adverse events were noted leading authors report resistance training appears to be a safe form of exercise in these populations.

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