Combine aerobics and strength training for a healthy heart workout

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: February 1st, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For years, fitness experts have been telling us to mix up our workout routine with both aerobic exercise and resistance training. The thinking? Different workouts provide different benefits: Aerobic exercise burns calories and improves cardiovascular fitness while weight training builds strength and helps bone density.

Now there’s even more reason to incorporate both elements into your routine. According to a new study, aerobic exercise and strength training each help the heart and vascular system in distinct ways.

The small study focused on men who averaged about twenty-five years of age. They were asked to perform thirty-minute bouts of cycling as well as eight resistance training moves.

Scientists monitored their blood flow as they exercised, with an eye toward how much the vessels expanded in reaction to the larger flow. Why is this important?

Because as we age, arteries tend to get stiffer, which adds to the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The scientists found the aerobic exercise helped decrease stiffness in the arteries but didn’t increase blood flow to the limbs. Meanwhile, the resistance training sent more blood flowing to the limbs but slightly increased the stiffness in the arteries. Blood pressure also dropped for a longer period of time after strength training compared with aerobic exercise.

Feeling intimidated by the idea of incorporating both elements into your fitness routine? Don’t be. It can be as easy as doing push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches and leg squats after a short run or bike ride. If you work out at a gym, ask a trainer to help you experiment with weights.

There’s even a bonus: If you’re in a rut, adding a new element to your workout routine just might make it more fun.