Working with weights can reduce blood pressure and boost heart function. Fitness pro Denise Austin shows you some simple moves.
Denise Austin has sold millions of exercise videos and authored nine books on fitness over the past 25 years. Maintaining her heart health is part of her commitment to a good diet and exercise.
Here she shares eight lifting exercises to help your cardio health.
Need motivation to start lifting? Consider that a study in the journal Circulation found that doing two to three bouts of weight training a week was enough to lower blood pressure.
In addition to heart benefits, other health benefits of working out with weights include:
-- increased muscle tone
-- improved bone density
-- possible positive effects on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity
-- more self-confidence
--a n improved sense of well-being
The Cleveland Clinic recommends that you begin an aerobic exercise program two to four weeks before adding weight training. Women may want to start with 1- or 3-pound weights. They may work up to 5- or 8-pound weights, depending on their age and strength. Men may want to get 10- or 12-pound dumbbells. They typically cost $1 a pound and can be found at most sporting goods stores.
Use these eight lifting exercises to start your own weight training routine.
Target: Upper back and shoulders
Step 1: Step back with your right leg, bringing your legs into a scissors position. Bend your left knee but keep your right leg extended, allowing your right heel to lift slightly. Lean forward, holding dumbbells, and extend your arms toward the floor.
Step 2: Exhale and bring your arms out to the sides, leading with your pinky fingers and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lift until your arms are parallel to the floor. Inhale as you lower the dumbbells. Do 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
Step 1: Stand with your stomach tight and your back straight. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, one in each hand.
Step 2: Exhale as you raise your arms out to the sides with your palms facing down. Bring the dumbbells to shoulder level, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Keep your neck long. Inhale as you lower your arms. Do 15 repetitions.
Target: Middle and upper back
Step 1: Hold dumbbells in your hands with your left foot in front of your right for balance and stability. Lean forward slightly. Bend your left knee slightly and rest your left arm on your left thigh for support.
Step 2: Extend your right arm down all the way to get a good stretch. Keeping your back straight, pull the weight up toward your armpit, bending your elbow as shown, then lower it. Do 8-12 repetitions, then switch sides.
Weight-Lifting Tip: Try to focus your thoughts on your muscles when you are working them, Denise Austin says. "You will get better results and really feel all the good that you are doing for your body," she says.
Version A: (This is easier than version B. If you have shoulder problems, this is a safer arm raise.) Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent. Hold a dumbbell at each side with your arms nearly straight and your palms facing your body. Raise one arm up, leading with your thumb. Lift the weight to chest height or slightly higher and squeeze your bicep. Slowly lower the dumbbell to the starting position. Do 12 repetitions and repeat on other arm.
Version B: Turn the dumbbells to rest on your thighs with your knuckles facing the ceiling. Slowly lift one arm up to shoulder level, keeping the elbow slightly bent. Exhale and lower the arm. Do two sets of 12 repetitions with a 20-second rest between sets. Switch sides and repeat with other arm. You also can do this exercise without any dumbbells.
Target: Shoulder and all the muscles that surround it.
Step 1: Stand with your feet together. With elbows tucked in, hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand parallel to the floor.
Step 2: Keeping your elbows in, rotate your forearms out to the side. Return to the center. Do 2 sets of 12 repetitions each with a 20-second break between sets.
Target: Back of upper arms
Step 1: Hold dumbbells in your hands with your left foot in front of your right for balance and stability. Lean forward slightly. Bend your left knee slightly and rest your left arm on your left thigh for support. Bend your right arm so the upper portion rests against your side and your knuckles point toward the floor.
Step 2: Exhale as you raise your right hand behind you. Inhale as you return it to the starting position. Do 15 repetitions or repeat until you feel fatigued.
Target: Chest and arms
Step 1: Kneel on a mat or carpet and place your hands under your shoulders. Lift your feet and shins so you are balanced on your hands and knees.
Step 2: With a straight back and pulled-in stomach, slowly bend your elbows as you inhale and lower your chest toward the mat as far as you can. Exhale as you straighten your elbows and press up. Do 10-15 repetitions.
Target: Hips and thighs. Also releases tension from lower spine.
Step 1: Kneel on your mat or carpet and extend both arms in front of you with palms facing down. Bring your stomach down to rest on top of your thighs and, if possible, bring your forehead down to the floor. Hold for five deep breaths.
Weight-Lifting Tip: Stretching is very important after you work out with weights. "Research shows that stretching, incorporated into a weight-lifting program, can help you build strength faster," Denise Austin says.