Power up your heart health

Add strength training to your home workout to boost your cardiovascular fitness.

With age, much of your body's muscle is replaced by fat. By age 75, lean muscle mass drops to just a quarter of your total weight, down from 50% in the young adult years. Some of the effects of this loss are clearly visible — your body changes shape, and you can no longer hoist heavy boxes or sprint to catch a bus. But this shift also carries broader implications for your overall health and chronic disease risk.

Your heart will thank you

Five of the modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease — inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess body fat, and diabetes — respond in varying degrees to strength training, says Elissa Huber-Anderson, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "Strength exercises increase muscle mass and burn body fat, thus reducing the risk for obesity. This type of workout also helps manage type 2 diabetes by decreasing abdominal fat and improving blood sugar control," she says. Strength training may also improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce resting blood pressure, which further lowers the risk to your heart.

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