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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 23:25 GMT
Pumping iron 'strengthens the heart'

Keep fit Lifting weights can improve your circulatory system

Weight training not only makes you fitter, it can also be good for the heart, researchers say.

The Influential American Heart Association (AHA) is publishing guidance stressing the added health benefits of pumping iron.

The guidelines, published in the journal Circulation, recommend a weight training programme of eight to 10 different exercises, two to three times a week.

We now have increasing evidence that weight training can favourably modify several risk factors for heart disease
Dr Barry Franklin, expert in cardiac rehabilitation
Dr Barry Franklin, an expert in cardiac rehabilitation at William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan, said: "We now have increasing evidence that weight training can favourably modify several risk factors for heart disease."

Dr Franklin said weight training improves cardiovascular function by decreasing blood pressure and heart rate when lifting or carrying objects.

There is also evidence that it lowers cholesterol and fat levels in the blood.

A study published in another AHA journal, Hypertension, also shows that weight training can help lower resting blood pressure.

Lead researcher Dr George Kelley, from Northern Illinois University, said: "Even though these reductions in resting blood pressure are small, they still can decrease an individual's risk for heart disease and stroke."

Dr Kelley's team found people who regularly pumped iron reduced their resting systolic blood pressure by 2%, and their resting diastolic blood pressure by 4%.

Systolic blood pressure is the pressure while the heart is beating and diastolic is the pressure while the heart is resting between beats.

The 320 people studied, who included both men and women, worked out between two to five times a week for between 20 and 60 minutes per session.

Body fat reduced

Runner UK authorities recommend jogging
The study showed that weight training also reduced body fat and increased the muscular strength of the participants by between 15% and 62%.

Dr Kelley said weight training also helped to stave off the brittle bone disease osteoporosis, built up muscle, reduced fat and trimmed the waistline.

"The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate and the more calories you will burn each day," he said.

The researchers warn that people with heart or circulatory conditions should seek medical advice before attempting weight training.

The British Heart Foundation issued a statement in which it said aerobic physical activity such as walking, swimming or cycling was good for the cardiovascular system.

"Weight training can be useful when combined with aerobic activity but it is not recommended for people with high blood pressure and some forms of heart disease."

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