What's the best exercise for heart health?

Aerobic exercise is the best way to improve your health and lower the risk of diabetes and heart diseases.

July 26, 2011

A combination of weight training and aerobic exercise might be the best prescription for overweight people at risk for diabetes and heart disease, a new study suggests.

People doing only aerobic exercise dropped weight and inches off their waistlines – so an aerobic-only program is also a good (and less time-consuming) option, researchers said. Those in the study who just lifted weights saw very little benefit in terms of heart health, although they did gain strength.

"Aerobic plus resistance is clearly the optimal program," said Dr. Timothy Church, who studies exercise and disease at Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

The findings, he told Reuters Health, are in line with other recent research and physical activity guidelines that suggest mixing in a little resistance training with regular aerobic exercise.

Resistance training builds muscle and bone, which can actually add weight to the body, although it is leaner, stronger body mass.

Because aerobic exercise alone seemed to be almost as good, if not as good, as aerobic and resistance training combined, Bateman said that "when you're weighing the time commitment that you're going to spend, if your overall goal is to ... improve your diabetes and heart disease risks, our study would suggest that aerobic exercise is the best way to better those outcomes."

That said, "we're not trying to send a message that resistance training is not good for things like increasing lean body mass or increasing strength," she told Reuters Health.


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