Heart disease is the most common cause of death in older adults. Heart disease kills about 600,000 Americans annually. Heart disease is the most common cause of death for women. It is more common than breast cancer, which tends to get more attention. Many women who suffer heart attacks do not have previous signs of symptoms (approximately 2/3rds will have a sudden heart attack). Major risk factors for heart disease are:
- High blood pressure
- Poor blood lipid profile (dyslipidemia)
An obese individual can expect to lose 6-7 years of life. This can matter a lot to the individual, but also to his or her family, who may lose that person’s love, support and companionship. Exercise reduces all four of the major risk factors for heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association all recommend 20-30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day for adults.
Resistance training is also recommended, but with an eye to improving functional fitness into old age. Little research has been done on the benefits of resistance training as a means of improving cardiovascular health.
Exercise: resistance training and aerobic training reduced risk of heart disease
A new study from the Research Center in Sports Science, Health Sciences and Human Development and the Research Center in Physical Activity, Health and Leisure, Faculty of Sport and the University Porto, in Porto, Portugal examined the effects of aerobic training alone vs. aerobic and resistance training together and got some interesting results. Here are some of the study details:
- Subjects were 59 older men
- Men were divided into three groups: Aerobic training, aerobic and resistance training or no training.
- None of the men had cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or was severely overweight
- Men had no previous history of exercise training or recreational sports
The Training Programs lasted 32 weeks:
- Aerobic Training Group: ran or did brisk walks two days a week and swimming training 1 day a week at levels that were perceived by participants as “moderate intensity”. Each training session included a 10 minute warm up, 3 sets of 15-20 rep body weight exercises and a five minute cool down with stretching. Subjects did agility exercises in the pool for 10 minutes each session. Agility exercises included water volley-ball and water polo. Sounds like a fun program.
- Resistance and Aerobic Training Group: did the same exercises as the Aerobic Training group except that one of the dry-land aerobic sessions was replaced with resistance training. Resistance training consisted of 65% of one rep max with three sets of 8-10 reps of bench press, leg press, lateral pull-down, leg exension, military press, leg curl and arm curl. Subjects also worked on their abs and backs.
- Control Group: carried on with normal life
No improvements in hypertension , obesity or dyslipidemia were seen in the Aerobic Training Group. Disappointing. Maybe a longer training period was needed. Hard to say. Improvements were observed in the Resistance and Aerobic Training Group. Improvements were seen in:
Why didn’t the aerobic training group show improvements? Perhaps the exercise program wasn’t intense enough. Maybe improvements would have been seen if the exercise program had lasted longer. Maybe it is important to increase the intensity beyond moderate, especially over time. Perhaps the resistance training program provided more aerobic training. 8-10 reps may be like short sprints for the cardio-vascular system. Short bouts of intense exercise can be very effective (See High Intensity Impact Training). More research is needed, but for what we have so far it looks like combining both is better than just aerobic training alone. If you do crossfit you are doing this already.
Sousa N, Mendes R, Abrantes C, Sampaio J, & Oliveira J (2013). Long-term effects of aerobic training versus combined aerobic and resistance training in modifying cardiovascular disease risk factors in healthy elderly men. Geriatrics & gerontology international, 13 (4), 928-35 PMID: 23441809