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Give your heart a lift.

Midlife is a good time to turn our attention to our hearts. The more we can do to keep our heart healthy, the better. A healthy diet is one excellent way to achieve that goal. Aerobic exercise is another. Walking, jogging, biking and swimming increase your heart rate and make you breathe deeply. But did you know that lifting weights can also help to increase your aerobic fitness?

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A study of 62 healthy adults--men and women--in Florida aged 60 to 83 were put into three groups: one performed light weight lifting, another high-intensity weight lifting and a control group that did no weight lifting at all. The light weight-lifting group performed 13 repetitions each of chest presses, overhead presses, bicep curls, seated rows, among other exercises, three times a week. After six months, the two weight-lifting groups were stronger and performed better on treadmill tests. These results, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that the simple act of lifting weights can boost aerobic fitness.

Before you embark on an exercise program, check with your doctor. If you get the green light, the best way to start a weight-lifting routine is to consult a fitness expert or buy a day pass from your local Y and spend an hour or so with a weight-lifting instructor. You can purchase small, free weights and elastic bands at a fitness outlet for about $25. Or you can use cans of beans or small water bottles as your weights. You don't have to be in perfect shape. Many weight lifting exercises can be done while seated.

Of course, aerobic activities such as hiking and jogging are key to keeping your heart healthy. The American and Canadian heart associations recommend 30 minutes of movement a day. Those minutes can be divided up into smaller segments, such as walking to the store for 10 minutes or taking the stairs at work for five--so long as they add up to 30 by the end of the day. Intensity is important too. The faster you walk, for example, the more benefit you'll derive.

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Here are some suggestions on how to incorporate aerobic and weight lifting into your fitness regimen:

DAY 1 Take the stairs (10 minutes), get off one stop earlier on your bus route (five minutes), walk the dog--or your partner--around the block (15 minutes). Total = 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.

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DAY 2 Walk briskly for 30 minutes in your neighborhood. Perform 13 repetitions with three or five pound weights of the following: bicep curls, chest presses and seated rows. (See illustrations, below.)

DAY 3 At lunch time, go window shopping or peruse your local indoor mall for 30 minutes. Added benefit comes from walking briskly--so try to keep up a good pace.

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DAY 4 Pump up the tires on your bike or borrow a friend's, and take it for a 30 minute spin. Alternatively, hop on a stationary bike! Perform 13 repetitions with three to five pound weights of the following: overhead press, triceps dip, bicep curls.

DAY 5 When travelling, book a hotel with a swimming pool or check out your local Y or community pool and buy a day pass. Do 15 to 30 minutes of laps.

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DAY 6 Go to your nearest national park and hike a two-to-five kilometer trail. Better yet, cross-country ski a hill or two. Perform 13 repetitions of bicep curls, chest presses and seated rows.

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DAY 7 Rest! You deserve it!

If you can keep aerobic and weight lifting exercise up for six months, you will be well on your way to making this an integral part of your life. The best bonus of all is that you'll decrease your risk of heart disease in the years to come.

Jo-Ann James, B.Ph.E, is a Medical Exercise Specialist and O.F.C. Certified Fitness Instructor in Toronto, Canada. She also serves as a board member of the Toronto Chapter of the Osteoporosis Society of Canada. www.vitalsteps.com
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Title Annotation:FITNESS
Author:James, Jo-Ann
Publication:A Friend Indeed
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:673
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