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Weight Training Has Unique Heart Benefits, Study Suggests

Adding resistance to aerobic exercise may help to lower cardiovascular Risk, reports The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

Resistance exercise (such as lifting weights) produces a different pattern of blood vessel responses than aerobic exercise, suggesting that it may have specific and important benefits for cardiovascular health, according to a study in the November issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals, and pharmacy. 

"Resistance exercise may offer greater benefits from the increases in blood flow to active muscles and could be implemented as companion to an aerobic training regimen," according to the new study, led by Scott R. Collier, Ph.D., of Appalachian State University, Boone, N.C.
 
Different Blood Flow Responses after Weight Training vs Aerobic Cycling
The researchers compared vascular (blood vessel) responses to two different types of moderate-intensity exercise: a set of eight resistance exercises, three sets of ten repetitions; and 30 minutes of aerobic cycling. Responses measured included blood vessel widening in response to increased blood flow (flow-mediated dilation) and arterial stiffness (versus distensibility). Greater flow-mediated dilation and lower arterial stiffness are key contributors to cardiovascular health.

Vascular responses to the two types of exercise were significantly different. Resistance exercise produced greater increases in blood flow to the limbs—even though it also caused small increases in central arterial stiffness. In contrast, aerobic exercise produced an increase in aterial distensibility—that is decreased arterial stiffness—but without an increase in blood flow.

Resistance exercise also led to a longer-lasting drop in blood pressure after exercise, compared to aerobic exercise. Dr. Collier and colleagues speculate that resistance may produce "compensatory peripheral vascular effects," which offset the increase in arterial stiffness while keeping blood pressure fairly constant.

Arterial stiffness of central vessels (like the carotid arteries and aorta) has emerged as an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Aerobic exercise is widely recommended to reduce cardiovascular risk. Less is known about the cardiovascular health effects of resistance exercise.

The results support previous studies reporting that resistance and aerobic exercise have opposite effects on arterial stiffness, while showing that resistance exercise has unique effects on blood pressure and limb blood flow. 

"The present study indicates that an acute bout of resistance exercise shows many favorable cardiovascular benefits and should therefore be considered as part of a daily exercise training program," Dr. Collier and co-authors conclude.

Especially because of its ability to increase blood flow to active muscles, weight training could be a valuable companion to an aerobic training regimen. "This may be of greatest importance to women, as they can derive important weight-bearing benefits of resistance training to help prevent and/or treat osteoporosis," Dr. Collier adds.

About The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is an international nonprofit educational association founded in 1978. The NSCA develops and presents the most advanced information regarding strength training and conditioning practices and injury prevention. Central to its mission the NSCA bridges the gap between the scientist in the laboratory and the practitioner in the field. By working to find practical applications for new research findings in the strength and conditioning field, the Association fosters the development of strength training and conditioning as a discipline and as a profession.

About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines publishing under the LWW brand, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services.

LWW is part Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, professionals and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health and pharmacy. Major brands include traditional publishers of medical and drug reference tools and textbooks, such as Lippincott Williams & Wilkins and Facts & Comparisons®; and electronic information providers, such as Ovid®, UpToDate®, Medi-Span® and ProVation® Medical.