Cardio (aerobics) is touted to be the most effective exercise for heart health.1 But if you feel that’s overdone or too taxing or just don’t prefer doing that, don’t worry! There are options for ‘weight training.’ Weight training is a strength training exercise, which, together with endurance, flexibility and balance form the four main types of exercises. It is natural to be afraid of exercise after having a cardiac event such as a heart attack or if you have a heart disease.2,3 However, several studies show that heart patients can benefit from weightlifting training and can help improve the functional capacity of the people having coronary artery disease, also known as ischaemic heart disease.3,4
What is ischaemic heart disease?
Ischaemic heart disease is a condition where the blood vessels are unable to carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This happens because of the narrowing or hardening of blood vessels due to the deposition of a waxy substance called plaque that sticks to the walls of the blood vessels and blocks the blood flow. Ischaemic heart disease can lead to heart attack.4
What is weight training?
Weight training is also known as resistance training or strength training. It makes use of the resistance to muscle contraction to build the size, strength, and the endurance of the muscles.5 It includes the use of weight machines, free weights, resistance bands and your own body weight. Weight training gives several physical and mental benefits. It helps in the prevention and control of heart disease.5 You may take up a weight training programme at a gym under the guidance of a gym instructor or personal trainer to ensure that you follow the proper technique and safety principles.5 A well-chalked-out weight training programme can help you maintain a healthy weight and have a better quality of life.2
What are the benefits of weight training in people with ischaemic heart disease?
According to new research, weight training can be helpful even if you have heart disease6. The right amount of weight training can improve your heart health. It can be safely done by heart patients and lowers the risk of heart problems.
The benefits of weight training are2,3,6,7
- It improves cardiovascular fitness and walking ability
- It increases the strength of muscles, bones, and connective tissue
- It reduces the accumulation of fat around the heart, reducing the risk of heart disease
- It helps strengthen your heart muscle. Combining it with cardio exercises can lower the bad cholesterol and improve the levels of good cholesterol
- It also helps in the overall reduction of fat in the body and creates leaner muscle mass
Safety concerns about weight training are obvious if you have a history of heart ailments. However, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends strength training at least two times per week.2 The load on the cardiovascular system during weight training is similar to that during aerobic exercises.3
If you have had a stroke recently, you must consult your cardiologist before starting weight training.2 Studies have discussed that weight and cardio training may not necessarily increase chest pain or the frequency of other symptoms of ischaemic heart disease. But these studies were conducted on patients with heart disease who were asymptomatic and were already on a cardio regimen prior to starting weight training.3 So if you are showing symptoms or developing new ones, stop immediately and talk to your doctor before continuing your regime.
Weight training is done with the help of professionals in the right way and for the right period can be beneficial and safe for your heart health. Once your doctor gives you a go-ahead, you may safely combine weight training with cardio workouts, and it may help work wonders for your health by keeping your heart healthy and reducing the risk of any further complications.6
Stay active with a little weight training and have a healthy heart!
- Give your heart health a lift [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 28]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/give-your-heart-health-a-lift
- American Heart Association. Strength and resistance training exercise [Internet]. [updated 2018 Apr 19; cited 2019 Dec 10]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/strength-and-resistance-training-exercise.
- McKelvie RS, McCartney N. Weightlifting training in cardiac patients. Considerations. Sports Med. 1990 Dec;10(6):355-64.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Ischaemic heart disease [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 2]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/ischemic-heart-disease.
- Better Health Channel. Resistance training – health benefits [Internet]. [updated 2018 Aug; cited 2019 Dec 10]. Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/resistance-training-health-benefits.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Give your heart health a lift [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2019 Dec 10]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/give-your-heart-health-a-lift.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. 3 kinds of exercise that boost heart health [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 10]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/3-kinds-of-exercise-that-boost-heart-health.