cardiovascular health

Reversing the Loss of Heart Function Caused by Type 2 Diabetes


A recent study found that “three months of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) improved heart function in adults with type 2 diabetes, without any change in medications or diet”.  This is an important finding considering that the leading cause of death of type 2 diabetes patients is cardiovascular disease.

The researcher stated: "Our research has found that exercise at sufficiently high intensity may provide an inexpensive, practical way to reverse, or reduce the loss in heart function caused by type 2 diabetes."

HIIT produces “exercise at sufficiently high intensity” and can be achieved with a series of short intervals of strenuous effort like sprints on a bike, rowing machine, hills, track, or stairs followed by moderate activity in between the sprints. A similar cardiovascular stimulus can be achieved with High Intensity Training (HIT), a series of strength training exercises with short rest between those exercises.

HIT produces a long list of cardio-respiratory fitness benefits. The added benefit is that HIT is effective in improving glycemic control. One our diabetic clients went from five shots a day down to one

At our Austin personal training facility we offer HIIT and HIT for strength. Some clients do both.  These workouts don’t take long, and you don’t have to do them with great frequency to have surprising results.  Is it worth an hour a week to increase your lifespan and more importantly your quality of life for years to come? We think it is.

Cardio, anaerobic, and aerobic exercise explained

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In 1969 Dr. Kenneth Cooper wrote the book Aerobics and coined that word to describe a form of exercise. Before that, the word aerobic was more often used to describe a type of metabolism. Aerobic metabolism utilizes our energy stores in conjunction with oxygen, while anaerobic metabolism uses energy stores without oxygen.

Both metabolic pathways are working all the time. The aerobic pathway is predominant at rest or at lower intensity activities such as the beginning of a run or picking flowers. The anaerobic pathway predominates while doing demanding activities such as sprints or strength training and is crucial for survival in fight-or-flight situations.

Cardio exercise is exercise that maintains an elevated heart rate at a range of 60% to 85% of one’s maximum heart rate. Can strength training have a significant cardiovascular component? It can; it depends on how your workout is structured. Warm-up sets do not present great demands on the cardiovascular system or the muscles for that matter. Intermediate intensity sets, time resting between sets, and set up time for the next exercise will not be taxing to the cardiovascular system. In the course of an hour long workout there will be a significant amount of time where cardiovascular demands on the body are minimal.

The High Intensity Training (HIT) for strength we do at our Austin Strength Training facility involves a large cardiovascular component. At the end of the first exercise your body will be doing all that it can to accommodate the demands placed on the cardiovascular system – the heart rate increases, arteries dilate, venous return increases, and blood volume per beat of the heart increases.

That first exercise is followed with a series of strength training exercises addressing all the major muscle groups. People of any age can do this workout. You build up to this workout slowly. Each week you lift a little more or a little longer and take a little less time between exercises. With the facilitation of a personal trainer the workout takes less than 30 minutes; it really can’t be longer unless you pace yourself, i.e. exercise at a lower intensity.

The chart of 64 year old man. The average heart rate of 74% is well within the cardio range.

The chart of 64 year old man. The average heart rate of 74% is well within the cardio range.

While the cardiovascular demands are high, [See chart] the long list of cardiorespiratory benefits makes it worth the effort. Best of all anaerobic exercise produces endorphins1. Just like a runner’s high, when the workout is over you’ll experience the deeply relaxed state that results when your body produces endorphinsIt is a great state to be in and one you will look forward to attaining each week.


Study shows that lifting weights is good for your heart


In a study researchers use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the structural and functional cardiac adaptions resulting from 22 weeks of high intensity resistance training (HIRT). The study consisted of two groups of middle-age men.  The experimental group did a HIRT workout two to three times a week.  The workouts were full body workouts, one set for each of the major muscle groups. The control group did nothing.  

The researchers found that heart stroke volume increased with HIRT, while myocardial strain did not.  They concluded: “This longitudinal cardiovascular MRI study suggests that a relatively short period of HIRT in previously untrained men is associated with physiological, significant changes in cardiac atrial and ventricular morphologic characteristics and function.”

In other words, your heart becomes stronger and better able to handle the increased demands without strain. Demanding work does more than increase one’s heart rate. Pump volume and venous return increase as the body adjusts to handle the increased demands.      

There is a long list of cardio-respiratory fitness benefits from high intensity training. One benefit in isolation might not have large impact, but the accumulation of all these benefits will have a direct impact on your quality of life and quite possibly the length of your life. 

At our Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Training locations our trainers take special care to monitor and accurately measure clients' progress to insure that clients gradually build up to a high intensity resistance training workout or an aerobic high intensity training workout that is safe, effective, and efficient for one's age and condition.

A long list of cardiorespiratory fitness benefits from high intensity interval training

From the American Heart Association Scientific Statement, Importance of Assessing Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Clinical Practice: A Case for Fitness as a Clinical Vital Sign: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association | Circulation, an excerpt:

“Cardiorespiratory fitness is a potentially stronger predictor of mortality than established risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.”

It is important to note that muscles stimulate the cardiovascular system to make positive changes, not the other way around. When the muscles are too weak to push the cardiovascular system, cardiorespiratory fitness declines. High intensity interval training (HIIT) increases strength and promotes cardiorespiratory fitness. The benefits:

o Unlike many other strength training regimens this workout is cardiovascularly demanding

o  Added muscle, the engine for cardiovascular health

o Increase forced expiratory volume

o Increases capillarization

o Protects joints for doing other cardio-activities like running

o Has lower rates of cardiovascular problems than aerobic exercise for those with heart conditions.

o Better for coronary artery disease patients

o Increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure

o Improves glycemic control

As a result of doing HIIT your aches and pains will fade away, and you will be able to do the activities you enjoy – walk, run, ride your bike, gardening - better, longer and for many more years to come with less chance of injury. 

At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers we offer HIIT. It is a 30 minute full-body workout done once or twice a week. This is a workout that you slowly build up to; anybody can do it. You’ll enhance your cardiorespiratory fitness and quality of life for decades to come.

Increasing Capillarization and Reversing the Aging Process

As we age there is a decrease in capillarization and an increase in anabolic resistance.

If you increase the amount of capillaries of muscles (capillarization) you’ll more quickly get more blood flows, oxygen, and nutrients to those muscles. You’ll be able to engage in physical activities longer.

As we age our body down-grades its ability to synthesize protein (anabolic resistance). This protein is necessary to maintain muscle.

How can you reverse anabolic resistance and increase capillarization?

From this study, Resistance Training Increases Skeletal Muscle Capillarization in Healthy Older Men:

“Resistance-type exercise training can effectively augment skeletal muscle fiber capillarization in older men. The greater capillary supply may be an important prerequisite to reverse anabolic resistance and support muscle hypertrophy during lifestyle interventions aiming to support healthy aging.

If your goal is stronger muscles with improved skeletal muscle fiber capillarization, at Austin senior personal training and at New Orleans senior personal training we can help you get there.

High intensity strength training lowers blood pressure

To lower your blood pressure do high intensity training HIT or start strength training. Better yet, do them both at the same time. High intensity training HIT consists of a series of short bouts of demanding exercise with rest or active recovery (less demanding exercise) in between each bout of exercise. HIT for strength can be done performing a series of strength training exercise with little rest in between. Evidence from two studies point to the positive effects both HIT and strength training have on lowering blood pressure. This study, High-intensity interval training and hypertension: maximizing the benefits of exercise? compared continuous moderate-intensity exercise training (CMT) and high-intensity interval training (HIT), to determine which was better for lowering blood pressure.  They presented evidence that: “HIT for several factors involved in the pathophysiology of hypertension raises the hypothesis that HIT may be more effective for preventing and controlling hypertension”. Another study, Weight Training Has Unique Heart Benefits, Study Suggests, examined the effect of strength training on blood pressure and found: When compared to aerobic training resistance training resulted in increased blood flow to the limbs and a longer-lasting drop in blood pressure after exercise. At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers we do HIT training on aerobic equipment and HIT training for strength in our weight room.

Exercising the cardiovascular system with minimal stress on the joints

According to Runner's World 80 percent of all runners will experience an injury in a given year.  That is counterproductive to what you set out to accomplish.  I was slow to learn this.  Years of running has taken its toll on my joints.  Fortunately I have found a piece of aerobic equipment that enables me to effectively work my cardiovascular system with minimal stress on my joints.  We have this piece of equipment at our New Orleans Personal Trainers and our Austin Personal Training locations.

Cardiovascular benefits of strength training

After a high intensity strength training workout you will be breathing hard.  This video was taken three minutes after a workout, so that I could get some of my wind back and have my pulse come down a bit.  EPOC, Essessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption is high after aerobic exercise, higher still after a strength training workout, and highest after a high intensity strength training workout.  A higher level of EPOC means more calories burned.  With a high intensity strength training workout, besides getting stronger, you will  positively affect your cardiovascular system, lower your sugar, and and burn calories long after the workout is over.

Blood Pressure Reduced with High Intensity Interval Training

High intensity of aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure more that low intensity aerobic exercise. That has definitely been my experience. From this study,

Aerobic interval training reduces blood pressure and improves myocardial function in hypertensive patients, comes this conclusion:

“This study indicates that the blood pressure reducing effect of exercise in essential hypertension is intensity dependent. Aerobic interval training is an effective method to lower blood pressure and improve other cardiovascular risk factors.”

One group trained at > 90% of their maximum heart rate. This type of training does not take a lot of time, but it is difficult. You have to build up to it. Once you build up to it, it is not as onerous. It will never be easy, but it is definitely worth it. At New Orleans Personal Trainers and at Austin TX Personal Training we can guide you through an effective aerobic interval training program and an interval training strength training program that will achieve life-changing results

High intensity training better for coronary artery disease patients

Two groups of stable patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) regularly walked on treadmills three times a week for ten weeks. One group walked at high intensity (80-90% of VO2peak); the other groups walked at moderate intensity (50-60% of VO2peak)

The results from this study, High intensity aerobic interval exercise is superior to moderate intensity exercise for increasing aerobic capacity in patients with coronary artery disease were:

After training VO2peak increased by 17.9% (P=0.012) in the high intensity group and 7.9% (P=0.038) in the moderate intensity group. The training-induced adaptation was significantly higher in the high intensity group (P=0.011).

Their conclusion:

High intensity aerobic interval exercise is superior to moderate exercise for increasing VO2peak in stable CAD-patients.

At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers we can help you gradually build up to a high intensity strength training or an aerobic high intensity training program that is safe, effective, and efficient for your age and condition. You need not spend hours in the gym to feel better, look better, and perform better.


Another blog entry on the subject:

Study: High Intensity training beneficial and safe for those with heart disease

Increased blood flow and lower BP with strength training

From this article Weight Training Has Unique Heart Benefits, Study Suggests:

“An acute bout of resistance exercise shows many favorable cardiovascular benefits and should therefore be considered as part of a daily exercise training program".

When compared to aerobic training resistance training resulted in increased blood flow to the limbs and a longer-lasting drop in blood pressure after exercise.

Another quote:

"Resistance exercise may offer greater benefits from the increases in blood flow to active muscles and could be implemented as companion to an aerobic training regimen, according to the new study".

Especially because of its ability to increase blood flow to active muscles, weight training could be a valuable companion to an aerobic training regimen. "This may be of greatest importance to women, as they can derive important weight-bearing benefits of resistance training to help prevent and/or treat osteoporosis,"

After strength training I find my blood pressure remains significantly lower for several hours. Presently my blood pressure is 128/72 four hours after exercise. The trouble is I can't do strength training every day and adequately recover from the stress to the muscles.

In place of the strength training I do high intensity sprints on a recumbent bike. With high intensity sprints you will activate your fast-twitch muscle associated with strength training, but you will not have the accompanying micro-trauma to the muscles that takes days to recover from. With the sprints you will tax your cardiovascular system and get your heart rate nears it maximum.

I have been doing the sprints for about four months three or four times a week along with the strength training. My doctor has taken me off one blood pressure medication and has cut back on the other. I have been taking BP meds for 33 years this is the lowest dosage I have been on in decades. I keep expecting to have my BP trend upwards but it hasn't. I will continue the training.

At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers we can help you gradually build up to a high intensity strength training or sprint training program that is safe, effective, and efficient for your age and condition. You need not spend hours in the gym to feel better, look better, and perform better.

Study: High Intensity training beneficial and safe for those with heart disease

New research examines the question of whether high-intensity exercise is beneficial for heart disease patients. The result:

“The four studies, which were composed of patients who either had acute coronary syndrome or angina pectoris, confirmed previous findings that high-intensity exercise is safe, even for patients with CHD” – quote is from this article High-Intensity Exercise for People With Heart Disease.

Another quote from the article:

"When we compared VO2max before and after the training period, we found that the number of training sessions, the subject's age or baseline fitness levels had no impact, but the intensity of the intervals had a significant effect, and seems to be the most important characteristic of an effective interval session.”

It was not how often but how hard they trained that produced the measurable change. They define high-intensity training as the point where a subject's HR during intensive periods is 85-95% of HRmax. They found that VO2max increased by 11.9 % after an average of 23.4 training sessions during the 12-week period for all subjects. They also found that when intensity that was greater than 92 % of their HRmax during the high-intensity periods, the effect was even greater.

This high intensity interval training works for those with healthy hearts as well. It can be conducted on various type of aerobic equipment or it can be done with interval strength training – a series of intense strength training exercises with little rests in between.

There are an infinite number of possible high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts that can be performed. They cannot be both long and intense. Done right they will be brief and intense. You will have to build up to this. AtAustin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Trainers we can help you gradually build up to a high intensity regime that is safe, effective, and efficient for your age and condition. You need not spend hours in the gym to feel better, look better, and perform better.

Other heart healthy blog entries:
1. The Heart Can Benefit From Brief Intense Exercise

2. Conventional wisdom and the benefits of strength training for cardiovascular health and weight loss

3. Brief, Intense Exercise Can Benefit The Heart

4. High-intensity exercise better at improving metabolic syndrome risk factors

Getting to your target heart rate with resistance training

The client was 58 and very fit. She was wearing a pulse meter on her wrist. Ninety seconds into the workout her pulse was 148 which is approaching her maximum for a person her age.

One method of determining one’s maximum heart rate is to subtract one’s age from 220 bpm. Using this method this client’s maximum heart rate would be 162 bpm.

We began the workout with the leg press using a heavy weight and slow initial movements. The leg press involves large muscle groups and can get one’s heart rate up in short order. The slow starts minimize force associated with injury and allow one to warm up safely with the heavier weights. The warm up is in effect incorporated in to the first set using a challenging weight. After a minute she was breathing hard and I told her to move faster. At this point her muscles were warmed up and appreciably weaker. Warmed-up weaker muscles are unlikely to generate enough force to cause injury as long as good form is maintained. Her attempts to move fast did not amount to much at that point in the set, but it did allow her to keep moving and achieve a deeper fatigue.

One of the goals or strength training is to expose the muscles to more work that they are used to handling. Performing a set in the manner can safely achieve that end. In most instances there is really no need to sap one’s energy to do a duplicate set. Effort, energy, and concentration can be devoted to the next exercise or muscle group.

Upon completion of the set she quickly moved on to the next exercise. Everything is pre-set; there is no need to dawdle. There is often a lot of standing around in a gym. Often times there is more time resting between sets than there is actually exercising. Not so with High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT. This is the type of training we do at both of our facilities -New Orleans Fitness Training and PersonalTraining in Austin.

As self protection the body adapts to the demands placed on it if given adequate time to recover. In her case she came back stronger and more able to withstand the sustained cardio demands. People of any age can do this workout and can build up to at their own pace. Our oldest client is 93 years old.

More information on the subject of cardio and strength training:

Cardio, anaerobic, and aerobic exercise explained

Blog entries regarding the heart healthy benefits of strength training

Healthy Hearts and Strength Training

Is strength training safe for cardiovascular health and is it healthy? You might be surprised by the results of one study. From this study, Strength Training Early After Myocardial Infarction, comes this quote:

“For the three treatment groups, 30 of 42 subjects had one or more cardiovascular complication (arrhythmias, angina, ischemia, hypertension, hypotension) during the aerobic exercises as compared to only 1 subject with complications during the resistive exercises.”

 An interesting result that speaks for itself - 30 complications for aerobic rehab versus one for resistance exercise rehab.

Another quote from the study:

“In selected patients, low-to-moderate intensity strength training performed early after infarction is effective and may have lower rates of cardiovascular problems than aerobic exercise.”

For recovering patients resistance exercises need not be very demanding to be productive. At New Orleans Personal Trainers at Austin Fitness Trainers we follow a simple rule: Perform a little more exercise than you are used to handling and then rest and recover adequately. This applies to advanced athletes and recovering patients. For the recovering patients it will not involve much to take them to a point of exercising beyond what they are used to handling. For the advanced trainees doing a little more than they did last time will be difficult but doable. Both groups will improve but the recovering patients often show the most profound improvement, as they start at a much lower base line.

Our workout program involves circuit resistance training. There is no resting between exercises, so there is a cardiovascular component. Each week recovering patients come in a little stronger and each week we increase the weights lifted by small increments. After a few months the recovering patients are dramatically stronger.

Aerobic activity has been stressed as necessary for cardiovascular health. This cannot occur if the muscles are too weak to allow adequate aerobic activity. The muscles drive the heart not the other way around. Also strength training has been shown to lower blood pressure. In the end we will not be put in a nursing home for being out of breath; it is because we are too weak to carry out daily activities. Remaining strong is good for the heart.

For improving metabolic syndrome risk factors try high-intensity exercise.

From this article High-intensity exercise better at improving metabolic syndrome risk factors;

• Once previously sedentary people with metabolic syndrome can comfortably exercise at a moderate intensity, they could consider more vigorous exercise, if they can do it without adverse symptoms, according to American Heart Association spokesperson.”

• Short bursts of high-intensity exercise, rather than longer spells of moderate-intensity, exercise may improve the health of people with metabolic syndrome. 

One group used a less-intense regimen called “moderate continuous-training” (CME)Another used a high-intensity aerobic-interval training for four months. One group Another did not exercise’

For the most benefit for your time spent exercising one can obtain the positive heart benefits and increase strength at the same time with high intensity interval strength training. High intensity interval strength training is by it nature primarily anaerobic but it can be profoundly cardiovascular. See- Cardio, anaerobic, and aerobic exercise explained.

The type of strength training we do at New Orleans Fitness Trainers and at Austin Personal Training is high intensity interval training (HIIT). It is a full body workout where a series of strength training exercises are performed with little rest between the exercises. With this type of personal training there is a significant cardiovascular effect along with the potential benefit of lower blood pressure. This strength training protocol has also been shown to be effective for rehab for those who have heart conditions. Strength training has more to offer than stronger muscles and bones; it is a heart healthy form of exercise as well.