IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pumping iron may help heart patients after all

Have heart problems? Hit the gym and start lifting some weights.
/ Source: Reuters

Have heart problems? Hit the gym and start lifting some weights.

While conventional wisdom once held that people with heart disease should not pump iron, a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association says some resistance training can be good for them.

“Just like we once learned that people with heart disease benefited from aerobic exercise, we are now learning that guided, moderate weight training also has significant benefits,” said Mark Williams, professor of medicine at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska.

Weight training is seen as a complement to aerobic exercise, not a replacement, he said. But it provides everyday benefits.

“It helps people better perform tasks of daily living — like lifting sacks of groceries,” Williams said in a statement.

Just one set
Resistance training is not recommended for people with certain conditions such as unstable heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart rhythm disorders, infections in and around the heart and some other serious problems.

The statement’s recommendations for an initial weight-lifting program says resistance training should be performed:

  • in a rhythmical manner at a moderate-to-slow controlled speed;
  • through a full range of motion, avoiding breath-holding and straining by exhaling during the contraction or exertion phase of the lift and inhaling during the relaxation phase;
  • alternating between upper and lower body work, to allow for adequate rest between exercises.

Weight lifters have traditionally focused on training that involves three sets of repetitions but the Heart Association said single sets provide nearly the same improvement in muscular strength at first.

And they are easier to stick to.

“For people with cardiovascular disease, the level of resistance should be reduced and number of repetitions increased, resulting in a lower relative effort and reducing the likelihood of breath-holding and straining,” the statement reads.

The heart benefits of weight training include increased muscle mass which can help in weight control.

“Patients who have had cardiac events are often apprehensive about returning to this type of activity, or doing things in their daily lives that might be perceived as strenuous ... Now we know that they can return to the active things they enjoy doing,” Williams said.