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Exercise training may help middle-aged people to reduce heart failure risk from sedentary lifestyle

From News Medical - January 8, 2018

Middle-aged couch potatoes may reduce or reverse the risk of heart failure associated with years of sitting if they participate in two years of regular aerobic exercise training, according to a new study in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

Study participants who adhered to the aerobic exercise regimen had significant improvements in how their body used oxygen and had decreased cardiac stiffness after two years, both markers of a healthier heart. Aerobic exercises are sustained activities, such as walking, swimming, running and others that strengthen the heart and other muscles and help the body use oxygen effectively.

"The key to a healthier heart in middle age is the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life," said study author Benjamin D. Levine, M.D., lead author of the study and the founder and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a joint program between Texas Health Resources and UT Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Texas.

"We found what we believe to be the optimal dose of the right kind of exercise, which is four to five times a week, and the 'sweet spot' in time, when the heart risk from a lifetime of sedentary behavior can be improved -- which is late-middle age. The result was a reversal of decades of a sedentary lifestyle on the heart for most of the study participants," he said.

The researchers analyzed the hearts of 53 adults ages 45-64 who were healthy but sedentary at the start of the study - meaning they tended to sit most of the time. Study participants received either two years of training, including high- and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise four or more days a week (exercise group), or they were assigned to a control group, which engaged in regular yoga, balance training and weight training three times a week for two years.

The exercise group committed to a progressive exercise program which monitored participants' recorded heart rates. People in this group worked up to doing exercises, such as four-by-fours -4 sets of four minutes of exercise at 95 percent of their maximum heart rate, followed by three minutes of active recovery at 60 percent to 75 percent peak heart rate. In this study, maximum heart rate was defined as the hardest a person could exercise and still complete the four-minute interval. Active recovery heart rate is the speed at which the heart beats after exercise.

They found:

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