While cardiovascular health is often associated with activities like running or cycling, the role of leg muscles in preventing heart attacks is often overlooked. Legs day is dreaded by all gym-goers. Sore muscles from squats, lunges, leg press, leg extension, and leg curls can be painful in the beginning. However, a new study may encourage you to keep your legs day and focus on training your quadriceps!
Leg strength is a major predictor of long-term survival after a heart attack.Individuals with better leg strength had a lower risk of mortality when compared to those with weaker leg muscles, according to studies.
The Leg Muscle-Heart Health Connection : According to new research presented this month in Prague at the Heart Failure 2023 scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology, having more leg muscular strength appears to be “strongly associated” with a lower chance of developing heart failure after a heart attack.
Let’s explore the connection between leg muscle strength and heart health:
Slower Cardiac Remodeling : According to the studies presented by Kensuke Ueno and Dr. Kentaro Kamiya presented the month of May in Prague at the Heart Failure 2023 scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology.Exercise may help to slow cardiac remodeling. Cardiac remodeling is a process in which fibrous tissue accumulates, causing an enlargement of the heart after heart attack. Exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation can alter the course of such remodeling in a way that improves heart function.
Moreover, skeletal muscle produces myokines, which are cytokines that have a variety of effects, including preventing the progression of atherosclerosis, stabilizing blood pressure, and preventing the development of age-related diseases as mentioned below
Improved Blood Circulation: Strong leg muscles help the blood to be pumped around the body more effectively. With each contraction, the leg muscles squeeze the veins, pushing blood back up to the heart against gravity. This technique enhances blood circulation, reducing cardiac strain and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lowered Blood Pressure: Engaging in leg-strengthening exercises, such as squats, lunges, or leg presses, has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Regular strength training can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels, which is vital for heart health and minimizing the risk of heart attacks.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity: Leg exercises increase insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to utilize glucose more effectively. This effect reduces the risk of developing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes – conditions closely linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.
Weight Management: Leg-strengthening exercises contribute to weight management by building muscle mass. As muscles are more metabolically active than fat, having a higher muscle-to-fat ratio boosts metabolism, resulting in better weight control. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces the strain on the heart and helps prevent heart attacks.
Exercises to follow to Strengthen Leg Muscles:
Squats: This compound exercise targets multiple leg muscles, including quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Squats can be performed with body weight, using dumbbells, or utilizing a barbell for added resistance.
Lunges: Lunges engage the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. They can be performed by stepping forward, backward, or in a walking motion. Adding dumbbells or barbells increases the challenge.
Step-Ups: Step-ups are effective for strengthening the lower body. Simply step onto an elevated platform or bench with one foot, then lift the other knee upward. Alternate legs for a complete workout.
Calf Raises: These exercises target the calf muscles. Stand on the edge of a step or platform, raise your heels as high as possible, and then lower them below the platform to work the calves through a full range of motion.
Leg Press: The leg press machine is excellent for targeting major leg muscles. Adjust the seat and foot platform, then push against the resistance with your legs, focusing on controlled movements.
Foods for Leg Workout Day :
While exercises play a vital role it becomes important to fulfill your energy needs and nutrient requirement for the leg workout day. Therefore, it is must to include these in your Diet:
- High Protein:A healthy balanced Diet with some High Protein food sources such as pulses & legumes, Milk & Milk products, Nuts & seeds are important for building strong quadriceps. Animal sources of protein such as eggs, poultry and fish not only provide essential amino acids but also necessary vitamins and minerals.
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are a must in strength training and leg workout.It is advised not to follow a low carb regime even if trying to lose weight as it may result in muscle losses instead of muscle gain or strengthening
- Water: Water is essential for staying properly hydrated during leg workouts and plays a crucial role in supporting optimal performance and overall well-being such as temperature regulation,electrolyte balance and joint lubrication.
- Vitamin D & Calcium:Yet another important nutrient for bone and joints.It is advised to take dairy as an excellent source of Vitamin D and Calcium on daily basis. Also, non-dairy sources of calcium such as Chana (chickpeas), Makhana (Fox nuts), Tofu, Almonds, Sunflower seeds,figs are important to meet requirements.
- Supplements: Protein is the foundation of muscle gain. This essential component is a necessity for all of your body’s daily functions and uses. Despite myths and misconceptions surrounding the use of Protein Supplements it becomes important meet the daily requirements through supplements.
- Pre Workout & Post Workouts: Consuming a well-balanced pre-workout meal or snack provides the necessary fuel to power through intense leg workouts. Carbohydrates, such as whole grains or fruits like Banana, supply readily available energy, while a moderate amount of protein can aid in muscle repair and maintenance.
While, post-workout nutrition enhances the delivery of essential nutrients, such as amino acids, to the leg muscles. This promotes muscle repair and growth, aiding in the development of stronger and more resilient leg muscles.
- Potassium: Include good food sources of potassium include bananas, leafy greens, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, and citrus fruits as it plays a crucial role in muscle function and overall performance during leg workouts.
Strengthening leg muscles is a valuable component of a comprehensive approach to preventing heart attacks. By improving blood circulation, lowering blood pressure, enhancing insulin sensitivity, and aiding in weight management, strong leg muscles positively impact heart health. Incorporate leg-strengthening exercises into your fitness routine. By investing in leg strength, you are taking an active step towards a healthier heart and reducing the risk of heart attacks