Improve Heart Health Without Running
Arnold Schwarzenegger had a busy summer in 1997. For one, his movie Batman and Robin was busy stinking up movie theaters and putting a dagger through the Batman franchise. It was almost ten years before we saw the return of Batman on the big screen, along with a 180 degree turn on the seriousness of the character.
It was also in 1997 that Arnold made public the serious heart surgery he had. It was shocking for many people because Arnold was the embodiment of health. How in the world could a person so fit have heart issues? Now to be fair, Schwarzenegger was born with a defect in one of the valves of his heart – but the point was made and America was suddenly interested in improving heart health.
People automatically assume that you need to run like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump in order to have a healthy heart. If you consider trekking across the country on foot a personal hobby of yours then by all means, go for it. But if you hate running more than going to the dentist for a root canal, then your heart health isn’t necessarily going to suffer.
There are a number of risk factors when it comes to heart disease. Most physiologists would agree that your family history is possibly the biggest risk factor, while obesity, stress, a poor diet, smoking, diabetes, inactivity, and high blood pressure would be other risk factors (1). So obviously having a healthy heart requires an approach on multiple levels. Running 5 days a week doesn’t do much good if your stress levels are through the roof and you only sleep three hours a night.
If you hate running, other forms of activity can help strengthen your heart. In fact, weightlifting has been shown to relieve high blood pressure. In a study with 25 men and women, researchers had subjects perform a training program based on their 10RM (meaning a weight you can lift only 10 times). At the end of the study, subjects had lowered their systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressure (2). In a similar study, senior citizens diagnosed with high blood pressure performed a full body workout by performing 15 repetitions per move. Subjects only worked out twice a week but managed to lower their high blood pressure (3). Not bad for two days a week of work!
Just because you don’t like to run doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy. Regular resistance training will work, but if you want a faster paced workout, then try supersets or circuit training to improve heart health.
1. Poliquin, Charles. German Body Comp Program. Greenwich; Rhode Island: Poliquin Performance. 2006. pp 14
2. Carter, J.R., Ray, C.A., Downs, E.M., Cooke, W.H. “Strength Training Reduces Arterial Blood Pressure but Not Sympathetic Neural Activity in Young Normotensive Subjects.” (2003) Journal of Applied Physiology. 94, 2212-2216.
3. Cunha Nascimento, D. Tibana, R.A., et al. “Sustained Effect of Resistance Training on Blood Pressure and Hand Grip Strength Following a Detraining Period in Elderly Hypertensive Women: a pilot study.”(2014) Clinical Interventions in Aging 9, 219-225