Resistance training and aerobics may help boost heart health in different ways, study finds

Most savvy exercisers know that a combination of aerobic and resistance training is best, since one works the cardiovascular system and the other targets muscles and bones. A new study looks even deeper into the two workout methods, finding that both have distinct benefits for the heart and vascular system.

The small study focused on 10 healthy men, average age about 25, who performed 30-minute bouts of cycling as well as eight resistance training exercises. The participants were monitored to see how their blood vessels responded to the different forms of exercise. Researchers noted how much blood vessels expanded as a reaction to greater blood flow, and also measured artery stiffness. Arteries can stiffen as we get older, contributing to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the study, aerobic exercise caused arterial stiffness to decrease but didn’t increase blood flow to the limbs. Resistance training did increase blood flow to the limbs, but also slightly intensified stiffness in the central arteries. Resistance training also produced a longer blood pressure drop following exercise than did aerobic exercise.

The authors noted that because of its cardiovascular benefits, resistance training should be incorporated daily into an exercise routine along with aerobic workouts. The study was published recently in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.