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Pumping Iron Good for the Ol' Pump

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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."

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.

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