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Pumping Iron Good for the Ol' Pump

WebMD Health News

Feb. 17, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Now that Valentine's Day has gone the way of a high school sweetheart, it's time to do more for your heart than just smell the roses and eat chocolate. Dust off that New Year's resolution and head to the gym, with a sweet deal in store: At least 10 minutes on the weights may be just as good for you as 30. That's not part of an infomercial, but instead part of a scientific advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA).

The new advisory, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, supports the growing consensus that lifting weights may be good for more than just your waistline. Weight training, also called resistance training, can ease the stress on the heart when lifting or carrying objects, according to a panel of experts appointed by the AHA to review all the scientific literature on the subject of weight training and heart health. In Hypertension, another journal of the AHA, there's further evidence of the positive effects of weight training on the heart, namely lowering blood pressure.

The AHA advisory calls for a single set of eight to 15 repetitions, using eight to 12 different exercises, for two to three days a week. Advisory co-author Barry Franklin, PhD, says what's exciting is that a panel of experts reviewing the scientific literature on the subject found just the single set was adequate for most people starting an exercise program to get the strength and endurance benefits. Franklin is a physiologist and director of the cardiac rehabilitation program and exercise laboratories at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

The news is not revolutionary, but the AHA's endorsement of the information is important. The importance of this advisory is that "you have the AHA embracing this, it's been a long time coming really, so I think that's great," Paul M. Vanderburgh, EdD, tells WebMD.

"What's unique about this is for many, many, many years, coaches, athletes, physicians said if you're going to do this [lift weights], do three sets of 10. Go do a set, rest, go again, rest," Franklin tells WebMD. But after a review of the literature, those starting a new exercise program doing only one set of 10 repetitions still had 90% of the improvement as those doing three sets.

Vanderburgh, an associate professor in exercise science at the University of Dayton, tells WebMD, "for the otherwise healthy, not elite athlete, population, one set seems to do the trick."

The AHA's advisory recommends the weight lifting as a "complement to, rather than replacement for, a person's aerobic" workout, says Franklin. But for people using "lack of time" as a hurdle to beginning a new exercise program, this new advisory takes away one more excuse. Although the advisory technically claims "a comprehensive resistance-training program of eight to 10 exercises can be accomplished in 20 to 30 minutes", Franklin says for some people, "this is the kind of routine that can be done in 10 minutes."

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