Published: Tue, January 09, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Exercise routine 'should be prescription for life to reverse heart risk'

Exercise routine 'should be prescription for life to reverse heart risk'

'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'. "But committed exercise four to five times a week was nearly as effective at preventing sedentary heart aging as the more extreme exercise of elite athletes", he said.

They built up to those levels, beginning with three 30-minute moderate exercise sessions for the first three months after which high intensity exercise was included. At the end of six months, all three groups showed improvement in blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, and triglycerides, but those who did both showed two times greater reductions.

The heart-health-boosting effects were not seen in a group of participants who exercised less vigorously. But there was a clear 18-percent improvement in the maximum oxygen intake among those in the cardiovascular program, as well as a 25-percent improvement in elasticity in the left ventricular muscle of the heart. A control group did yoga and balance training.

One of the study's limitations is the researchers selected volunteers who were willing and able to participate in an intensive exercise regimen, so results might not apply to the general adult population. People in this group worked up to doing exercises, such as four-by-fours defined as 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.

The baby boomers did 150 minutes of exercise per week, plus sessions of high-intensity interval training, which has been shown to be good for burning fat. One to two of the other sessions were longer but of more moderate intensity. Their weekly regimes always included one or two interval training sessions, plus at least one hour-long workout, and a 30-minute "base pace" session. The exercise group was also able to reduce the stiffness in their heart muscle, while there was no change in this measure among people in the other group. Another session or two concentrated on strength training using weights or exercise machines.

The study from researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center looked at the effects of exercise on the heart.

Exercise routine 'should be prescription for life to reverse heart risk'
Exercise routine 'should be prescription for life to reverse heart risk'

Dr. Levine, shown here in front of his laboratory's hyper/hypobaric environmental chamber which simulates performance in environments such as space or deep diving. But just as a rubber band starts to stiffen with age, the heart also begins to shrink and become less flexible over time, which can lead to heart failure and less efficient pumping of blood through the body. The most important thing is to exercise frequently, the researchers stressed in the journal Circulation. Two to three times a week was not enough, the researchers found in an earlier study.

Even though the participants were on their own for most of those sessions, they got a lot of guidance about what to do, Levine said.

Still, according to this study and previous ones that Levine has conducted, there is a time window for taking advantage of resilient heart muscle.

More than 900,000 people in Britain suffer from heart failure, which occurs when the heart is too stiff to properly pump blood around the body, causing breathless, fatigue and wheezing.

"We identified that during late-middle age, the heart still maintains some of that cardiac plasticity where it can respond to exercise", Dr Howden said.

The coaches encouraged people to mix it up so they wouldn't get bored with their workouts: They suggested participants mix in some trail running, swimming, elliptical training, and treadmill days.

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