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Can Weight Training Reduce Cardiovascular Risk?

When you think of improving your cardiovascular fitness, aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling usually come to mind. Surprisingly, research has shown that weight training may have also some positive cardiovascular benefits.

There are many different ways to lift weights. For example, during circuit training, you move through a series of weight stations with little rest. Circuit training has been shown to be an effective cardiovasuclar conditioning activity. The weights are usually light to medium and there is a stronger aerobic component to this workout.

Where heavier weights are lifted with longer rest periods, physiological effects are primarily exerted in the muscle. Muscle plays a large role in sugar and fat metabolism such as cholesterol. Weight training has, indeed, been shown to improve lipid profiles as well as balance insulin responses. Both are desirable for a healthy heart.

Weight training is the single best exercise for reducing body fat, another risk factor. Resistance training breaks down muscle tissue which can take a day or two to repair itself. The repair process can raise your metabolism 24-48 hours after you lift. You also put on lean muscle mass which is more metabolically active than fat. The more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate will be all day long.

In order to improve a system like your heart and blood vessels you must stress the system. Lifting a hard set of weights will leave you breathing hard and your heat beating fast. Short stress periods like this are what make your heart and lungs get stronger. Doing the same old aerobic routine at the same pace will only maintain your current cardiovascular fitness, not improve it. (If you have any health problems or are a beginner, check with your doctor before trying any hard lifting).

Before you throw away your Nike's, "aerobic" exercise still has it's place in heart healthy fitness routines. The rules have just changed a little bit. Instead of doing long, easy to moderate sessions, shorten them and interval train. Interval training means hard/recover. You might try one minute hard and two minutes recover or easier. Studies show greater fat loss and increased cardiovascular fitness with interval training. (Again, if you have any health problems or are a beginner, see your physician before starting a program with high intensity exercise).

The best exercise precription for those who have cardiovascular fitness as a goal is to cross train. Cross training means participating in more than one type of activity. Not all the research is in on how much and what type of exercise is best. Both weight lifting and aerobic exercise are beneficial to a healthy heart in different ways. So why not vary your program, try both, and reap the unique benefits of each.

About the Author: Dr. Lanny Schaffer is the President of The International Fitness Academy. For more cutting edge fitness information go to

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