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Chiropractic Research Review

Combining Resistance Exercise with Aerobics to Maximize Fitness

Bench-step aerobics (BSA), the kind many people do at home to music using repetitive step exercises on a foam block, has grown dramatically since the late 1980's and primarily focuses on developing cardiovascular fitness and improved body composition profiles.

While it is well known that BSA improves cardiovascular fitness and body fat percentages, little is known about the effects of BSA on muscular performance; some studies even suggest that BSA may even impair muscular performance. To date, no studies have attempted to add a resistance training component to a BSA program to enhance muscle strength and power and the overall health profile of women.

This study focused on the comparative benefits of a short-duration compared to a long duration program along with a comparison of a short BSA program and the same short BSA program with the addition of resistance exercise.

The study looked at 35 healthy, active women who were divided into four groups. One group took part in a 25-minute BSA class, another a 40-minute BSA class, a third took part in 25 minutes of BSA plus stretch-band resistance work, and a fourth control group was assigned no exercise. The stretch-bands were used in upper and lower-body workouts aimed at completing 9-12 repetitions of two to three sets of movements that simulated weight training exercises that ranged from squats to bicep curls.

All training groups significantly improved peak VO2 (ability of the body to transport oxygen to muscles for energy) with the greatest improvement observed in the BSA/stretch-band group. Significant reductions in preexercise heart rates and body fat percentage were observed in all groups after training. Significant reductions in resting diastolic blood pressure were observed for the BSA/stretch-band and 40-minute BSA groups. Muscular strength and endurance only improved significantly in the BSA/stretch-band group. All groups demonstrated increased lower body power, but only the BSA/stretch-band group significantly improved upper body power.

Conclusion: BSA is an exercise method effective for improving physical fitness and body composition in healthy women. The addition of resistance exercise appears to enhance the total fitness profile by improving muscular performances, muscle morphology, and cardiovascular fitness greater than from performing BSA alone. The authors recommend that the inclusion of both modalities to an exercise program is most effective for improving total body fitness and a woman's health profile.

Kraemer WJ, Keuning M, Ratamess NA, et al. Resistance training combined with bench-step aerobics enhances women's health profile. American college of sports medicine journal, medicine and science in sports and exercise, February 2001, pp. 259-269.

Chiropractic Research Review

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