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Weight Training for Heart Disease
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A No-No No More: Weight Training Aids Ailing Hearts
By Daniel J. DeNoon
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
July 16, 2007 -- It's no longer a no-no. Moderate weight training offers big benefits to people with heart disease, the American Heart Association says.
In 2000, the AHA approved weight training for people with several kinds of heart disease. Now that cautious permission has become a ringing endorsement.
"Just as we once learned that people with heart disease benefited from aerobic exercise, we are now learning that guided, moderate weight training also has significant benefits," says Mark Williams, PhD, of Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb.
Williams and colleagues rewrote the AHA's new weight training advice. Those recommendations appear in the July 31 issue of the AHA journal Circulation.
Weight training -- or "resistance training," as researchers like to call it -- is no substitute for aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, and biking is still the most important way to stay fit. But to get the most out of aerobic exercise, one should add weight training.
The benefits of weight training include:
"Resistance training not only enhances the benefits of aerobic fitness, but it appears to provide the added benefit of increased functional capacity and independence," Williams says. "It helps people better perform tasks of daily living -- like lifting sacks of groceries."
Who Should Not Lift Weights
Some heart patients should not lift weights. Weight training is not recommended if you have:
People with other heart conditions or risk factors for heart disease should discuss weight training with their doctors before starting.
How to Start Weight Training
The AHA's "initial prescription for resistance training" includes these tips:
There is a wide variety of equipment available. However, most people -- especially beginners -- benefit most from the circuit-training machines found in most gyms. It also helps to have an experienced trainer to get you started. And don't forget to check with your doctor to establish the exercise level that's right for you.
SOURCES: Williams, M.A. Circulation, July 31, 2007; vol 116, manuscript received ahead of publication. News release, American Heart Association.
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