When you hear the term “heart-healthy exercise,” you probably picture treadmills and stationary bikes. For most people, cardiovascular exercise is synonymous with heart-healthy — and with “cardio” in the name, who can blame them? But it isn’t just heart-pumping cardio that’s good for your heart health. It turns out strength training also can play a positive role in improving your heart health. In fact, some doctors and researchers think it could be even more beneficial.
Don’t believe us? Can strength training improve heart health? Here’s why strength training is good for your heart.
Strength training helps with weight loss
Carrying around extra weight can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Adopting a strength-training routine can help you lose weight by building lean muscle and burning more calories throughout the day — which can help cut back on stubborn excess belly fat. Since belly fat can build up around your organs and heart, it’s the type of weight gain that is most likely to increase your risk of heart disease.
Strength training lowers blood pressure
Building muscle helps increase blood flow and reduce the pressure on your arterial walls by giving your body more places to put blood. Research from Appalachian State University even showed that strength training may be more effective at improving blood pressure than cardiovascular exercise.
Strength training improves your cholesterol
In addition to lowering your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, strength training also can improve the function of your good cholesterol levels, called high-density lipoprotein.
Strength training helps you sleep better
The same research from Appalachian State University also indicated that strength training in the evening can improve sleep quality. Since lack of sleep can contribute to heart disease risk and weight gain, better sleep is a huge benefit of strength training.
How to Start a Strength-Training Routine
While you should always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, the good news about strength training is that it’s easy to adapt to all ages and fitness levels. Before you jump in head first, consider these few tips:
- Set up an appointment with a professional trainer to learn how to safely perform strength training moves and operate weight machines.
- Take it slow. Don’t be afraid to start with just body weight training and then build up weight slowly as you get stronger.
- Embrace rest days. Your muscles need time to recover.
- Learn the difference between how higher reps and higher weight affect your body. Depending on your strength-training goals, develop a program and do your best to keep it consistent.
Looking for other ways to get fit and active? Check out our free guide for more tips.