Strength training won’t harm older arteries
Despite some concerns to the contrary, strengthening exercises appear to help, not harm, older adults’ artery function, a small study suggests.
In general, experts advise that young and old alike include both aerobic activities and strength training in their exercise routines. For older adults, the benefits may include stronger muscles and bones, fewer physical limitations and a lower risk of falls and fractures.
However, research in young adults has found that strength-building resistance exercises seem to increase “stiffness” in the arteries—effects that would be concerning in older adults, whose risk of heart disease and stroke is already elevated.
In the new study, however, Japanese researchers found that strength training seemed to improve artery function in a group of healthy men in their 60s.
The researchers, led by Dr. Seiji Maeda of the University of Tsukuba, report their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Specifically, a 12-week leg strengthening regimen boosted the men’s blood levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps dilate the arteries. Nitric oxide levels in the blood are a marker of how well the artery walls are functioning.
On the other hand, non-invasive tests found no evidence connecting strength exercises to stiffening in the body’s major arteries.
“The results suggest that resistance training in older adults would produce beneficial effects on the vasculature without any unfavorable effects,” Maeda’s team writes.
Still, the researchers note, larger, more extensive studies should continue to follow the long-term effects of strength training on older adults’ artery health.
SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, October 2006.
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