Endurance and resistance training helps aging hearts stay healthy

We all know the importance of being physically active throughout our whole lives; as we age that is even more important for so many reasons. At the top of that list is keeping our bodies muscles, heart, lungs and mind healthy. So what types of activities are best suited for senior health? Two recent studies focused on the impact of endurance training like aerobic activities (biking, running, swimming) and resistance training (muscle building exercises). Is endurance or resistance training better? These studies concluded that both are beneficial because each carries out different, crucial functions that when combined are the best at keeping you healthier for longer.

How does resistance help?

The journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that lifting weights, even for one hour per week, reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 40 to as much as 70 percent. Those are stunning results. Researchers used data from 12,581 adults in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study who were measured for cardiovascular events and concluded that weekly resistance training reduced the risk for having heart attacks or strokes. The lead researcher, Dr. Lee, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University stated he was surprised that only one hour of resistance training per week was enough to reduce cardiovascular disease. Dr. Lee also stated, “resistance training is specifically important for older adults not only for their cardiovascular health, but also for their bone health, physical function, independence, and quality of life.”

How does endurance training help?

In a study published in the European Heart Journal found endurance training slowed and even potentially reversed cellular aging. A research team in Germany studied 266 young, healthy but inactive patient volunteers. Over six months the participants were separated into two groups randomly. Each group was asked to perform either endurance training (running exercises), high-intensity interval training or resistance training.

Groups were asked to exercise for three 45-minute sessions each week and the researchers analyzed what was taking place at the cellular level, particularly the “telomeres” which are found at the end of each chromosome in a cell and are the repeating DNA sequence. Telomeres are important, they protect the ends of a chromosome from deteriorating. As we age, telomeres become shorter in length, a clear marker for cellular aging.

The enzyme telomerase fights the shortening process and when activated can even lengthen the telomeres. At the end of the study researchers found the patients telomeres lengthened substantially, and, telomerase levels increased up to three times more for those who performed endurance and high-intensity training. Dr. Christian Werner, Senior Consultant for Cardiology at the University of Saarland in Homburg, Germany, stated, “the findings of our study clearly point to the importance of endurance training for effects on specific regulators of cardiovascular aging.”

What’s the right combination?

These studies concluded there are clear benefits from both endurance and resistance training. However, there is more focus placed on endurance training as it has shown, in this study and many others, that it has a direct link to slowing and reversing cellular aging. To capitalize on the benefit of endurance training, adding at least one hour of resistance training benefits cardiovascular health.

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