Running and other cardio exercises are what come to mind when most people think of heart health. But strength exercises play a big role as well.
“Research shows that resistance training can also be beneficial in lowering resting blood pressure, increasing HDL (High Density Lipoproteins), and increasing cardiac output,” Aryeh Spingarn, Sports Performance Coach at Professional Physical Therapy, BS Nutrition and Exercises Science, says.
Additionally, resistance training allows for ease in activities of daily living which, due to the nature of the training, generates less stress on the heart. “This is due to increased strength to do these activities, requiring a lower percentage of the maximal voluntary contraction of the heart to be used,” she adds.
Since blood pressure is directly related to HDL and LDL concentrations, it’s important to note that resistance training has been shown to increase the concentration of HDL which is inversely related to Arteriosclerosis, or the buildup of LDL on the arterial walls, which narrows the diameter of the blood vessels, Spingarn says.
“This build up can cause restrictions of blood flow to the periphery which in turn causes the heart to have to pump that much harder to get the blood to where it goes.” But, as HDL levels increase, this aids in preventing the oxidation of LDL which causes it to adhere to the arterial walls, she adds.
It is of critical importance to be aware that DURING the actual training session blood pressure is increased, but decreases following the cessation of exercise for those with high blood pressure and/or dyslipidemia. A physician should be consulted prior to beginning a resistance training program, Spingarn says.
Unlike aerobic training, which increases the size of the left ventricle, which also increases the cardiac output and is primarily responsible for blood flow to the periphery, resistance training has been shown to increase the thickness of the Myocardium (muscle tissue of the heart) and thus the force with which the heart can use to eject blood, Spingarn says. “The nature of resistance training, which is the ability of the muscles to contract and expand, is actually the mechanism in the venous return that pushes blood back to the heart from the periphery.”