Maximizing Cardiovascular Health

Maximizing Cardiovascular Health: The Impact of Combined Exercise on Overweight Individuals

A wealth of evidence suggests that aerobic exercise can lower risks of cardiovascular disease for many people, particularly for overweight or obese individuals.

However, few studies have compared outcomes with resistance exercise or a combination of aerobic and resistance regimens. This groundbreaking research, one of the largest and longest supervised exercise trials, addresses this gap.

Published in the European Heart Journal, the study reveals that splitting recommended physical activity between aerobic and resistance exercise reduces cardiovascular risks as effectively as aerobic-only routines. Conversely, resistance exercise alone did not offer the same cardiovascular benefits as the control group.

Lead author Duck-chul Lee, Professor of Kinesiology at Iowa State, states, "If you're tired of aerobic exercise or face joint pain during running, our study shows you can replace half your aerobic workout with strength training for equivalent cardiovascular benefits. Additionally, combined exercise provides unique muscle-improving benefits."

Participants performed sets and repetitions using weight machines, free weights, elastic bands, or body weight (e.g., push-ups, lunges), all categorized under resistance exercise.

Lee emphasizes, "One common barrier to exercise is time constraints. The combined cardio and strength training we propose isn't more time-consuming."

In the study, 406 individuals aged 35 to 70, all overweight or obese with elevated blood pressure, participated in a year-long randomized controlled exercise trial. Each group underwent one-hour supervised workouts three times a week.

Participants received tailored routines based on their fitness levels, health, and progression. Resistance training involved specific sets, reps, and weights, while aerobic exercises utilized heart rate monitors and custom treadmill or stationary bike programs.

Physical activity and diet data were collected outside the lab. At intervals, participants' systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and body fat percentage were measured.

Results revealed decreased body fat across all exercise groups compared to controls. However, composite scores assessing cardiovascular risk factors were lower in the aerobic and combined exercise groups.

At trial's end, aerobic-only participants improved in aerobic fitness, while resistance-only participants showed increased muscular strength. The combined exercise group saw improvements in both.

These findings support physical activity guidelines advocating for both resistance and aerobic exercise, particularly for those with obesity. Further research aims to determine the optimal dose of resistance exercise for overweight or obese adults.
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