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Exercise May Reverse Heart Damage Later in Life

Sedentary aging can lead to a stiffening of the muscle in the heart’s left ventricle, which can lead to high pressure and the heart chamber not filling as well with blood. A recent study suggests that exercise begun before age 65 can help reverse damage to sedentary, aging hearts and reduce the risk of heart failure.

Participants in the study included 61 healthy, sedentary, middle-aged participants with an average age of 53. Half of the group underwent two years of exercise training, while the other half performed yoga and balance training as a control. The researchers measured maximum oxygen intake and left ventricle elasticity at the beginning and end of the study.

The exercise regimen was strict and the researchers found that exercising two to three times per week was not sufficient. In order to gain heart health benefits, the participants had to exercise four to five times per week.

The exercise regimen included a high-intensity 30-minute workout, a low intensity recovery session; a moderate intensity session for one hour; one to two more moderate intensity sessions; and one to two strength training sessions, either after an endurance session or on its own.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted an 18% improvement in maximum oxygen intake during exercise and a more than 25% improvement in left ventricular elasticity in the exercise group, but not in the control.

Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center conducted the study. It was published on January 8, 2018, in the journal Circulation.

Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. Previous clinical studies suggest that even moderate exercise may help with blood sugar control, body weight reduction, improved heart health, improved respiratory health and reduced risk of dying prematurely.

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