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Pumping Iron Good for the Ol' Pump

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It's not for everybody, though, according to the advisory. Franklin says the recommendations are safe for healthy people, meaning people who may have had a heart attack but are otherwise not experiencing any symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath.

"Weight training can lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke by lowering the LDL "bad" cholesterol, raising the HDL "good" cholesterol and reducing blood pressure, Franklin tells WebMD. It can also reduce the potential for the development of diabetes by improving the metabolism of blood sugar.

In the Hypertension study, led by George A. Kelley, DA, researchers reviewed data from 11 studies and found that weight training reduced blood pressure by up to 4%. Kelley is director of the meta-analytic research group at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

And for the elderly, weight training can help stave off osteoporosis and help maintain the ability to carry out daily activities, Franklin says.

Kelley agrees: "I think people in general see it [weight training] as something to increase strength and muscle mass, and now they're hearing more about it possibly improving bone density ... and it may improve your [risk of having a heart attack or stroke].

Kelley says currently, though, only 16% of adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in the U.S. participate in progressive resistance exercise at least twice a week.

Vital Information:

  • The American Heart Association reports that adding 10 minutes of weight lifting to a regular exercise routine can help the heart work more efficiently and may even lower blood pressure. For the elderly, weight lifting can help fight osteoporosis as well.
  • The organization adds that doing between eight and 12 different exercises for just one set of eight to 15 repetitions each is enough to see these benefits. Weight lifting should be done two or three times a week, in addition to aerobic exercise.
  • Other medical groups have made similar claims but stressed multiple sets of exercise. This recommendation is based on studies demonstrating most of the benefits can be achieved from the one-set regimen.
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