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3 Exercise Options After Heart Attack

Study: Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training, or a Mix of Both Are Equally Good Options
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WebMD Health News

March 16, 2009 -- Heart attack survivors have their pick of aerobics, resistance training, or both types of exercise to help their blood vessel function -- but they need to stick with it.

That news comes from a Swiss study of 209 heart attack survivors.

The researchers split the patients into four groups.

The first group of patients was assigned to get 40 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on a stationary bike four times per week for four weeks.

The second group did resistance training using weights and resistance bands four times per week for four weeks. Their training routine worked their upper and lower body, and they didn't rest for more than 30 seconds between sets of exercises.

The third group of patients did two weekly sessions of aerobic exercise and two sessions per week of resistance training.

For comparison, the researchers told patients in the fourth group to avoid physical activity during the four-week study.

All of the patients had gotten thorough checkups before starting to exercise. Everyone - not just heart attack survivors -- should do that.

At the end of the study, patients in the three exercise groups showed similar improvements in “endothelial function” -- their blood vessels' ability to contract and relax. Those improvements trumped the sedentary group's results.

"All types of exercise were useful," with similar results for each exercise type, write the researchers, who included Margherita Vona, MD, of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Switzerland's Clinique Valmon-Genolier.

Vona's team adds that variety can help prevent exercise boredom.

Lastly, patients in all three groups took a month off from exercise. That lull wiped out all the endothelial function benefits seen earlier.

"One month of detraining is sufficient for both resistance and aerobic training to lose all positive effects on endothelial function," write the researchers.

The study appears online in the journal Circulation.

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