You may be Able to Outrun Heart Failure

by Blake Herzog

Clearly, your body’s overall health and strength is vital to ensuring your heart’s health, but a new study hints that strong legs may have an especially strong connection to a strong heart.

Presented to the European Society of Cardiology during its Heart Failure 2023 conference in May, the research done at a Japanese medical school followed nearly 1,000 patients who’d experienced a heart attack between 2007 and 2020 and found those who scored higher on measurements of quadricep strength had a 41% lower risk of developing heart failure after their heart attack.

The participants’ median age was 66, and 81% were men.

The study’s author, Kensuke Ueno at Kitasato University’s Graduate School of Medical Sciences, concluded that quadriceps strength measurement could be used to identify heart attack survivors who need closer surveillance to prevent development of heart failure.

Though more study is required, the results do “suggest that strength training involving the quadriceps muscles should be recommended for patients who have experienced a heart attack to prevent heart failure.”

The research team was following up on other studies that found a correlation between leg strength and recovery from cardiac events, including one from 2015 that followed patients who’d been treated for coronary artery disease and found those with high quadriceps strength were less likely to die over the next three to five years from cardiovascular disease or any other cause.

What you can do

Your quadriceps, or quads, are a group of five muscles on the front of each of your thighs and takes up the most volume of any muscle group in your body. Quad strength doesn’t happen in a vacuum, so strength training is important to keep them engaged and growing.

If you’re already a runner you’re heading in the right direction, but everyone, including you, can benefit from exercises that specifically work the quads.

Squats and lunges done with bodyweight or carrying light to moderate weights will accelerate their development. Doing leg extensions with a resistance band will challenge them more than almost anything else you throw at them.