You can boost your heart health, and lower your blood pressure, with a simple weight-training routine.
If you’ve been walking, dancing, or doing some other aerobic exercise—and you’ve made some heart-health gains but want to improve even more—try adding weight training to your routine. A simple weight-training program can significantly reduce your insulin levels and blood pressure, according to a study of 16 out-of-shape men who were insulin resistant and at risk for diabetes. Both of these benefits are tremendously heart-healthy, because high insulin levels contribute to arterial inflammation, and high blood pressure leads to arterial damage and forces the heart to work harder.
The men in the study were assigned to one of two 14-week exercise programs. The first group did aerobic exercise, and the second group followed each aerobic session with one hour of weight training. Both groups reduced their insulin, blood sugar, and blood pressure, but the effects in the weight-training group were significantly greater. The men in the latter group lowered their insulin levels three times more than the men in the aerobics group, and their glucose levels and blood pressure decreased by twice as much.
What's the Best Way to Use Weight Training to Boost Your Heart Health?
I recommend beginning a weight-training program with 20-minute sessions, two or three times a week, with a day off between sessions to give your muscles time to heal. Here's a video that includes examples of several weight training exercises you can do right at home. In addition, keep these simple beginner strategies in mind:
- Use light hand or ankle weights (2 to 3 pounds for women, 5 to 10 pounds for men), or exercise “bands” that you stretch with your arms and legs.
- Work slowly and smoothly, exhaling as you lift the weights and inhaling as you lower them. A weight training “set” consists of 8 to 12 lifts, or repetitions.
- Be sure to exercise at a pace that is comfortable for you, and rest between sets.
- Increase the number of sets gradually, and add more weight as you gain strength, but don’t push yourself to the limit.
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Exercise and Heart Health
How can you ensure you are exercising safely? See my top safety tips for heart-healthy exercise.
What special supplements do you need for heart health if you are an avid exerciser? Find out which antioxidant supplements you should take if you exercise a lot.
Should you run instead of walk to maintain optimal heart health? Learn why running is not the most heart-healthy exercise option.