How Leg Workouts Can Impact Your Heart Health

The infamous leg day is meant to sculpt, tone, and strengthen the body. While research has proven the effectiveness of strength training exercises for burning calories, that's not the only impressive health benefit. According to a 2019 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, resistance training supports your overall cardiovascular system and reduces the chances of cardiovascular diseases, including strokes, heart attacks, and deaths associated with heart conditions.

Typically, aerobic exercises like running, walking, cycling, and swimming are associated with improving heart conditions (via the Cleveland Clinic). However, this study focused solely on strength training and its benefits regarding heart health, finding that even the smallest amounts can protect the heart (per Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise).

Pericardial and epicardial adipose tissues have the largest influence on heart disease conditions, per the Journal of the American Heart Association. When these fatty plaques and tissues accumulate in the arteries, it can lead to heart-related ailments, but resistance training independent of cardio training can help offset this. Specifically, strength-based exercises alone (or in combination with aerobic exercises) can help reduce the chances of obesity, according to a 2021 observational study published in PLOS Medicine.

How much strength training is necessary?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult should participate in strength training exercises at least twice a week, aiming to strengthen all of the big muscle groups. The goal is to tire the leg muscles through challenging exercises that simultaneously strengthen them. This causes damage to the muscle fibers and forces the body to repair the muscles, ultimately making them stronger (per MedicalNewsToday).

Duck-chul Lee, associate professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, shared with ScienceDaily that even two sets of a resistance training exercise are beneficial, and they take less than five minutes to complete. "Lifting any weight that increases resistance on your muscles is the key," Lee told the publication. "My muscle doesn't know the difference if I'm digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting a dumbbell." It's important to listen to your body as you weight train so you can challenge your muscles effectively. Maintain proper form and technique, and engage your core while firing up your leg muscles. Remember not to overtrain, as any weight lifting over one hour does not have further heart health benefits (per ScienceDaily).