Resistance band exercises boost heart health

Resistance Band Exercises Boost Heart Health

Studies suggest that strength training may boost your metabolic rate by up to 15%.

Q: Is resistance training as good for the heart as aerobic exercise?

A: Any type of movement that makes your heart work harder than usual — brisk walking, dancing, or cycling — will benefit your heart health. But many people don’t realize that targeted exercises to strengthen muscles throughout your body may also help stave off heart disease.

In the past, strong muscles were considered beneficial mainly from a functional standpoint — that is, they make tasks such as carrying groceries and doing laundry easier. Those perks are particularly important as people age.

Now, there’s more interest in looking at how a higher muscle mass may lower the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Muscle mass declines naturally with age, and most people replace lost muscle with fat. Muscle-building exercises can help counteract that trend.

Studies suggest that strength training may boost your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body converts energy stores into working energy) by up to 15%. You’ll burn more calories, even while you’re sitting or sleeping. One study found that healthy men who did 20 minutes of daily weight training had less of an age-related increase in abdominal fat (which is especially hard on the heart) compared with men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities. In addition, muscle tissue is more metabolically active, so it helps control blood sugar and lowers insulin resistance. That helps prevent Type 2 diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease.

Strength training can be done with resistance bands, small hand weights, or weight machines. If you don’t want to join a gym, consider buying a set of resistance bands. They’re light and inexpensive, and you can do almost any kind of muscle-strengthening exercise with them. Those that resemble large rubber bands with loops or handles on each end are often easiest to use. Many brands follow the same progressive color scale, ranging from yellow (the easiest, least resistance), then red, green, blue and black (the most difficult, highest resistance).

A well-rounded program works all major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. It’s best if you can take a class to learn the different types of resistance band exercises.

Be sure to warm up first by marching in place and swinging your arms for a few minutes. Use the band that gives the least resistance (the “stretchiest” one) and aim for a mid-range level of effort (say, about 5 or 6 on a scale of 10). Start with a single set of eight to 12 repetitions (reps) of each move, then gradually build up to two or three sets as you feel able. Rest for a minute or two between each set.