Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the comprehensive physiological alterations that take place during the combination of bench-step aerobics (BSA) and resistance exercise training.
Methods: Thirty-five healthy, active women were randomly assigned to one of four groups that either a) performed 25 min of BSA only (SA25); b) performed a combination of 25 min of BSA and a multiple-set upper and lower body resistance exercise program (SAR); c) performed 40 min of BSA only (SA40); or d) served as a control group (C), only performing activities of daily living. Direct assessments for body composition, aerobic fitness, muscular strength, endurance, power, and cross-sectional area were performed 1 wk before and after 12 wk of training.
Results: All training groups significantly improved peak VO(2) (3.7 to 5.3 mL O(2).kg(-1).min(-1)), with the greatest improvement observed in the SAR group (P = 0.05). Significant reductions in preexercise heart rates (8-9 bpm) and body fat percent (5--6%) were observed in all training groups after training. Significant reductions in resting diastolic blood pressure were observed for the SAR and SA40 groups (6.7 and 5.8 mm Hg, respectively). Muscular strength and endurance only improved significantly in the SAR group (21 and 11% respectively). All groups demonstrated increased lower body power (11--14%), but only the SAR group significantly improved upper body power (32%). Thigh muscle cross-sectional areas measured via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) increased primarily for the SAR group.
Conclusion: BSA is an exercise modality 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. Therefore, the inclusion of both modalities to an exercise program is most effective for improving total body fitness and a woman's health profile.