Most of us could benefit from getting more exercise, but what type of exercise is best? That is a big question that seems more difficult to answer than you might anticipate. While any physical activity will certainly improve health outcomes for most of us, if you are looking to specifically boost your heart health, the exercise you should do might not be what you expect.
You probably think that aerobic activity like running is best for your heart but a new study suggests that lifting weights could actually be better than jogging. Again, the scientists who headed up this study say that any physical activity is good but static exercises—which includes weight training—could also help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
In this study, the research team analyzed a broad scope of cardiovascular risk factors—including things like hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, being overweight, and diabetes—in relation to two different types of exercise. The data they used came from responses of more than 4,000 American adults who participated in the 2005/6 National Health and Nutrition Survey, with some adjustments made for age, gender, ethnicity, and tobacco use. The adults observed in the survey were divided into a younger group (21 to 44) and an older group (over the age of 45).
Through this study, the researchers found that roughly one-third (36 percent) of younger adults and one-fourth (25 percent) of the older adults had engaged in more static exercise types than aerobic. They also found that 28 percent of younger adults and 21 percent of older adults reported having participated in activities like cycling and/or walking.
First of all, the researchers found that participating in either of these activity types resulted in 30 to 70 percent lower cardiovascular risk factor rates. More importantly, the researchers found the exercise benefits were greatest among the younger adults who chose static exercise over aerobic exercise.
Maia P. Smith, Ph.D., MS, is a statistical epidemiologist and assistant professor in the St. George University Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. She comments that this study should help guide clinicians to counsel patients towards the type of exercise that will best suit their age and activity level.
The results of this study have been presented at the ACC Latin America Conference 2018, which took place in Lima, Peru.