Strength training and its impact on heart and lung health

Hello everyone! Hope you are safe and healthy in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. In continuation with our previous blog post that focused on performing aerobic exercises at home (click here to read about fitness at home) we will enlighten you about what is strength training, why it is important and how to go about becoming physically stronger.

You may be familiar with the names Karnam Malleswari and Gurdeep Singh, weightlifting champions in the female and male categories respectively, who have made India proud in the global arena! While competitive bodybuilding and weightlifting are not for everyone, toned up muscles and a sleek core are some things we should all work for.

What is strength training?

Strength training or resistance training is a form of physical activity designed to work our muscles against resistance in order to improve muscle strength, power and endurance. There are multiple ways of doing strength training, such as:

  • Use of free weights such as dumbbells and barbells
  • Use of machines/equipments that consist of adjustable weights
  • Use of resistance bands
  • Use of body weight

Benefits of strength training

  • Improves strength, power and tone of the muscle
  • Improves flexibility and functioning of joints
  • Aids weight loss by increasing calorie expenditure
  • Helps in increasing bone mass and density thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • Also improves posture, mobility and balance

Impact on heart and lung health

Regular strength training exercises help prevent and control diabetes, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol and obesity, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and liver damage. There is also a direct connection between better muscle strength and improved heart function. That is why cardiac patients are now advised to engage in resistance exercises on a regular basis, so that not only their arms and legs but also their heart muscle will work more effectively and more efficiently.

As medical literature has proven that individuals with chronic lung diseases benefit from a combination of breathing retraining, aerobic exercises and strength training exercises, we teach these exercises to our patients with asthma, bronchitis, and even those who have had heart and lung transplant to improve their breathing efficiency and reverse their muscle wasting.

Body weight exercises

Half Squats
Stand tall with feet apart;
out stretch your hands and slowly squat down halfway. Keep your knees in line with your toes and your back straight.
The Lunge | OrthoVirginia
Lunges
Stand tall with feet apart and extend the left leg forward; slowly go down until your right knee nearly touches the floor and come back up; repeat the same on the other leg in an alternate manner.
4 Effective Leg Toning Exercises | WW USA
Calf Raises
Stand tall with feet minimally apart, raise your heel and balance on your toes for 2 to 3 seconds and slowly come down.
Modified Push Ups
From a face-down position with your hands shoulder width apart and from a half kneeling position, lift your toes up and slowly go down until your chest is 5 cm above the ground and come back.

Tips for body weight training

  • Start at a lower level of 8-12 repetitions (1 set) and try to do 1-2 sets
  • Focus on the quality of the movement throughout the regime
  • Avoid holding your breath while performing these exercises
  • Take breaks of 30-60 seconds in between each set and 2-3 minutes between each exercise

What is core strength?

Additionally, adequate amount of time should also be devoted towards strengthening your core, that is, your abdominal and lower back muscles. Core strength will improve your fitness level, enhance your aerobic performance and prevent low back pain and flabby tummy or potbelly.

Core strength exercises

7 best body weight exercises to train your core at home - YP ...
Abdomen curl ups
Lie flat on the ground with your knee bent as shown; keep your hands by the sides of your head to maintain your neck in neutral position. Slowly come up as you breathe out and go back down as your breathe in, feeling the tightness in your abdomen.
Alternate/Both Leg Raises
Lie supine and keep your hands to the side; now slowly lift your legs high up without bending your knees as you breath out and slowly lower your legs down as you breathe in.
Free Workout: Transform-Wk1W1: Power ยท WorkoutLabs Fit
Modified Plank
Lie prone on the ground and position your upper limb with elbow support and lower limb on your knees with toes lifted up and maintain this position for a few seconds.
Modified Side Plank
Lie on a side and semi flex your knees and with the elbow support lift your upper body and maintain in that position for a few seconds.

The abdominal exercises can be done for 10-12 repetitions per set for a minimum of 2 sets and the plank hold for 10-15 seconds per round and minimum of 2 rounds.

Tips for core exercises

  • For abdominal exercises, remember to breathe out as you come up and breath in as your go down and avoid breath holding
  • In planks, see to it the position is well maintained and focus on breathing throughout the duration
  • Focus on the quality of the movement and do it at an appropriate pace for a better rhythm

Some of the prerequisites one should have in mind prior to performing strength training are:

  • Perform on a non slippery, safe surface to avoid injuries
  • Adequate warm-up and cool-down should be done for better performance
  • Allow adequate rest of 24-36 hours before performing the next session
  • Beginners may experience muscle soreness; application of ice packs on the localised area will help in relieving pain and discomfort

Performing these exercises at home will not only make you fit and healthy but also provide you with the confidence that exercise is simple and fun and can be done without any fancy equipment!

Exercise your way out of the COVID-19 crisis

Today, all of humanity is doing one of these three things: trying not to contract the infection, fighting the infection actively or coping with the post-infective period having survived the infection. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and keeping up the positive attitude are 3 things that will help all of us irrespective of which phase we are in. Let us support one another and get through this crisis together!