Q: February is national heart awareness month.  How can strength training help heart disease?

A: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. One in four deaths is caused by heart disease. Per last month’s stump the staff, heart disease is also a key factor that influences life expectancy.

How can strength training help heart disease?
Traditionally, aerobic exercises such as walking, running, or swimming have been prescribed to prevent/manage heart disease. A recent study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that strength training might reduce the risk of heart disease and provides the same benefits as aerobic exercise.

The study reviewed 12,500 subject checkup records which included detailed questionnaires about their exercise habits and medical history. The subjects were categorized according to their reported strength training frequency (ranging from never, once, twice, or three or more times a week) and duration (strength trained for more or less than an hour each week.) The subjects were also categorized based on whether they met the standard recommendation of 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise. This exercise data was then crosschecked against heart attacks, strokes, and deaths during the 11 years or so after each subject’s last clinic visit.

The results: the risk of experiencing heart attack, stroke, and death was 50 percent lower for those that strength trained occasionally compared with those who never did or those who met the aerobic exercise recommendations. Subjects who strength trained twice a week for about an hour had the greatest declines in risk.

The following websites were used in answering the question: