Strength training has a number of health benefits.
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While you may think of weight training as just a way for people to add muscle, it can also have a number of other beneficial effects on the body. Consider adding weight training, also called strength or resistance training, to your exercise routine or diet regimen twice a week to reap the potential health benefits.
Pumping Iron Pays Off
Adding weight training to a low-calorie weight-loss diet can help you lower your low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol. A study published in "Obesity" in March 2010 found that those who combined dieting and weight training twice a week for 16 weeks lowered their cholesterol, while those in the control group and the group that just participated in a weight-loss diet didn't experience this benefit, even though the diet group lost a similar amount of weight. The study authors noted that people with higher cholesterol may be more likely to achieve changes in LDL cholesterol than those with lower cholesterol levels.
Compared to Aerobic Exercise
Strength training may be just as good for lowering bad cholesterol as aerobic exercise. A study published in "Lipids in Health and Disease" in 2010 found that both aerobic exercise and weight training had about the same effect on bad cholesterol, with both lowering LDL cholesterol to a similar degree. The exercise group also experienced other health improvements, including weight loss, lower blood pressure and lower triglycerides, all of which could further lower their heart disease risk.
If you want to lower your cholesterol, the best way to do so may be a combination of aerobic exercise and weight training, according to a review article published in "Sports Medicine" in 2013. The authors recommended exercising for more than 30 minutes five days per week, including a mix of prolonged moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and moderate- to high-intensity weight training. The American Council on Exercise recommends people aiming to lower their cholesterol engage in weight training at least twice a week to help limit the loss of muscle mass that would normally occur with weight loss and aging. Losing muscle mass can result in weight gain, since muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat, and weight gain can lead to higher cholesterol levels.
Although weight training can lower your cholesterol slightly, by itself it won't have a very large effect on your LDL cholesterol. For best results, you'll want to exercise in combination with making other lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, following a healthier diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, not smoking and limiting your alcohol consumption, recommends MayoClinic.com.