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A Weighty Issue for Exercise Buffs

Dumbbells Are Smart

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Adding resistance to your exercise program, Westcott says, makes the heart pump faster. That forces the left ventricle -- the part of the heart that pumps blood to most of your body -- to worker harder and become stronger. Just like other muscles, the heart responds to hard work by growing thicker, stronger walls. "You get a larger left ventricle that pumps more blood with each beat, and you get a stronger pump and you can have a lower resting heart rate," he says.

 

If a healthier heart isn't enough reward, there are some other benefits that might motivate you to start pumping iron. For instance, would you like to shed a few pounds? An Ohio University study on the effects of resistance training on lipoprotein concentrations that appeared in last year's first quarterly issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported no change in those blood parameters. But the study did note changes in the subjects' bodies. "The training program resulted in significant alterations in body composition (decreased in percent of body fat) and fiber composition," the authors wrote.

 

That makes sense, says Westcott, who has conducted his own studies on resistance training and weight loss. Here' s why: In a 30-minute session of weight training, most people burn 260 calories, Westcott says. But resistance training gets the body so revved up that two hours after you've grunted the last repetition, your body is still burning calories at a supercharged rate. "You don't come back to a normal metabolic rate for the next two hours," Westcott says.

 

Want another reason to become friends with some dumbbells? A Tufts University study, published in the August 1994 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people ages 56 to 80 who weight-trained three times a week increased their resting metabolic rate by 7%. The participants gained three pounds of muscle and lost four pounds of fat while increasing their daily caloric intake by 15%.

 

"Strength training should be part of every weight loss program," Westcott says.

 

The American Heart Association recommends performing an aerobic workout six days a week for 30 minutes and two to three weight training sessions a week. But if you're like most Americans, you don't exercise because you think you don't have time to press some pounds. Not true, say Westcott and others in the field.

 

"Give me 10 to 15 minutes a day, two days a week and you will see a difference," Westcott promises.

 

If you want to start a weight workout, Westcott suggests that you first talk to your doctor and have a complete physical. Then, when you're ready, you can begin with these basic exercises:

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