Health Notes: Resistance training safe for heart patients, still doesn't spot reduce

This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. This edition looks at the benefits od resistance training for heart patients and spot reducing training.

This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We'll focus on news you can use and present results in plain English, without all the techno-garble that can make many research studies seem overwhelming to read, let alone understand and explain to somebody else. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see, and how you'd like to see it!

>> Resistance training safe for heart patients, has significant benefits

No reason for your customers who have heart disease to be scared away by lifting weights. That worry is an ancient one.

The American Heart Association has re-issued its statement on strength-training after another review of literature and concluded again that doing proper, moderate strength training is good for those with cardiovascular disease as a part of an overall program and, in fact, may have significant benefits.

Benefits include increased strength and muscular coordination, more muscle mass and higher bone density in men and women of all ages, all of which can help those with cardiovascular disease take care of day-to-day needs and tasks better.

"Just like we once learned that people with heart disease benefited from aerobic exercise, we are now learning that guided, moderate weight training also has significant benefits," said Mark Williams, Ph.D., the statement writing group chair and professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb.

Williams said resistance (weight) training should be viewed as a complement to aerobic exercise, not a replacement for it. There is extensive evidence of the benefits of aerobic exercise training on the modulation of cardiovascular risk factors, he said.

The statement itself, printed in a July 2007 issue of the association's journal, discusses best techniques, training advice and recommendations for those with heart disease. "The emphasis at the early stage of training is to allow time for the muscles to adapt and to practice good technique, thus reducing the potential for excessive muscle soreness and injury," Williams said. Low weight limits are fine for those just recovering, but patients can often do quite a bit more as they progress.

So what? If you ever have a customer who worries he or she (or his or her spouse or family member) can't or shouldn't do strength-training, this statement can rest concerns.

For the scientifically minded: If you want to read all recommendations and detailed findings, you can find the statement, titled "Resistance Exercise in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease," by the American Heart Association on its website by clicking here.

>> All together now: Spot reducing doesn't work

We know you still get people in your stores and businesses who want to know how they can spot reduce -- tone a belly, firm the thighs, tackle arm jiggle or whatever. So here we go again: Spot reducing doesn't work.

In a recent study published in a sports medicine journal, researchers from Connecticut had 104 subjects, men and women, train one arm and leave the other arm untrained. They worked out under supervision for 12 weeks after having done MRIs and skin-caliper tests of their arms and followed up by the same assessments.

Long story short, subcutaneous fat -- the fat under the skin measured by skinfolds -- did decrease in some men in the trained arm, but in the overall sample and in the women did not decrease in the trained arm. Measured by MRI -- therefore looking deeper -- there was no change in the arms in men or women.

So what? Well, yeah, so what? Seems that what we harp on with consumers has once again been verified: Overall, do good solid training and get good solid results, but not spot reduction.

For the scientifically minded: An abstract is available of the study in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Vol. 39, issue 7 (July 2007) by clicking here. The full study appeared on pages 1177-1185, available to members or at your local library.