Pump It Up: 10 Strength Training Tips for Bones, Balance, Weight Control

Not so long ago, lifting weights conjured up images of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bodybuilding heyday; it certainly wasn’t an activity encouraged for someone at risk for a heart attack. Now, however, health experts recommend strength training for everyone to improve overall health and quality of life, even for simple activities like carrying groceries, opening jars and climbing stairs.

Most recently on the bandwagon is the American Heart Association (AHA) with new guidelines published July 31st in Circulation. AHA recommends strength training as a part of your regular physical activity, even if you have heart disease (and your doctor gives the okay).

Benefits More Than Your Muscles. If strength training is done right, says the AHA, it enhances the benefits of aerobic exercise plus increases function and independence in healthy older people and in those with cardiovascular disease.

By building muscle mass, strength training helps maintain your weight, strengthens bones, improves balance and increases endurance. Studies show it improves overall quality of life even for people in their 80s and 90s.

Start Slowly. For the average person starting out, the AHA recommends only one set of exercises at least two days a week. People with heart disease should start with less weight but do more repetitions.

Who Shouldn’t Lift Weights. Strength training is not recommended for people with unstable heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, arrhythmias or infections in and around the heart. Even if you?re healthy, check with your doctor before embarking on a strength-training program. If you?ve had coronary artery bypass surgery, for example, you?ll need to wait eight to 12 weeks to heal.

Bottom Line: Better Health, Better Bones, Better You. Done properly, strength training is a safe and effective way to improve your health and stay active for years. But don’t let it take the place of aerobic activities; it should complement whatever walking, jogging, swimming or other “cardio” activities you currently enjoy.

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