Exercise protects the heart and can even reverse existing damage
Researchers from the United States have now found that adequate exercise or exercise can reverse damage to the aging heart. The risk of future heart failure is therefore reduced or even completely eliminated if the correct exercises are carried out in good time.
In their current study, scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern and Texas Health Resources found that training sessions beginning in late middle age can help protect the heart and prevent future heart failure. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Circulation".
How much exercise a week?
In order to achieve the greatest benefit, the training program should begin at the latest in advanced middle age (before the age of 65). The exercises must be done four to five times a week and take at least 30 minutes. It is not enough to do the exercises only two to three times a week, the authors emphasize, citing the results of previous studies. Based on a series of studies that the team has conducted over the past five years, the dose of exercise mentioned is optimal, said lead author Dr. Benjamin Levine. The exercises should be a natural part of the daily routine, similar to brushing your teeth, the expert adds.
How was the training structured?
One of the weekly sessions includes a high-intensity 30-minute workout, such as aerobic interval sessions, in which the heart rate exceeds 95 percent of the peak rate for 4 minutes. This is followed by three minutes of relaxation. This process is repeated four times, say the experts. Each interval session is followed by a relatively low intensity recovery session. One day of the week, one hour of training can be carried out, which is carried out at medium intensity (for example tennis, aerobics, walking or cycling). One or two more sessions were conducted with moderate intensity each week in the study, which meant that the participants started to sweat, got a little breathless, but were still able to have a conversation, the doctors continued .
In the study, training sessions based on exercise tests and heart rate measurements were prescribed individually. In addition, the experts added that one or two weekly strength training sessions with weights or training equipment were carried out on a separate day or after an endurance session.
The training should slowly be intensified
Study participants slowly built up their training, starting with three 30-minute, moderate workouts in the first three months, and peaked after ten months when two high-intensity aerobic intervals were added.
The study participants ranged in age from 45 to 64 years
More than 50 subjects took part in the study. These were divided into two groups, one of which completed two years of supervised training and the other served as a control group that only carried out yoga and balance training. The participants ranged in age from 45 to 64 years.
Effects of the training over a period of two years
At the end of the two-year study, the exercise participants showed an 18 percent improvement in their maximum oxygen intake during exercise and an improvement in the elasticity of the left ventricular muscle of the heart by more than 25 percent. When people sit a lot and don't move enough, it can stiffen the muscle in the left ventricle. This chamber pumps oxygen-rich blood back into the body. When the muscle stiffens, high pressure is created and the ventricle does not fill up with blood as well. This is how heart failure develops, explains Dr. Levine.
Improvements could be identified after just one year of training
Previous research by UT Southwestern found that left ventricular stiffening often occurs in middle-aged people who are not exercising and are not fit. The experts also found that the heart chamber of athletes remains large and elastic. Four to five days of dedicated physical activity over decades is enough for non-competitive athletes to get most of this benefit. In the current study, the researchers wanted to check whether exercise can restore cardiac elasticity in previously predominantly sedentary people when they start exercising in late middle age. An improvement was already evident after one year of training. However, the positive effects were surprisingly small, if the training was started after the age of 65, the experts add. (as)