It seems it truly never is too late to adopt an active lifestyle and reap the health benefits. New research from cardiologists at UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources is showing with a specific fitness regimen, individuals having had more sedentary lifestyles can undo the damage caused to their hearts. This comes from the heart’s ability to reshape itself and always become a better version. This cardiac benefit is attainable by enacting a new fitness regimen prior to the age of 65, with starting in the late 40s being most beneficial. Based upon their two-year longitudinal research study, Dr. Benjamin Levine concludes, “this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life”.
Maintaining a more sedentary lifestyle through middle age typically results in a stiffening of an individual’s portion of the heart muscle. This reduces their heart’s overall output while subsequently increasing their blood pressure. These lifelong sedentary individuals were the specific population the researchers were interested in studying. After being prescribed and executing a specific two-year fitness regimen, the 53 male and female participants, aged 45 to 64, showed an 18% increase in their overall efficiency and a notable decrease in the stiffening of a portion of the hearts muscle.
The specificity of the exercise routine is key. Researchers found a mixture of high intensity and low intensity work is needed. The regimen culminated in four to five weekly sessions in durations of 30 and 60 minutes with a dedicated warmup and cooldown. This was made up of two weekly workouts dedicated to high intensity aerobic intervals, such as four minutes at 95% effort, three minutes recovery, repeated four times. One weekly session consisting of an hour of moderate exercise, such as walking, cycling, or tennis. One or two weekly sessions, exercising at moderate intensity, where participants would break a sweat and elevate their heart rate. One or two weekly sessions of strength training using weights were additionally peppered in after an endurance session. Participants built up to this level of work, by beginning with three weekly sessions of 30 minutes of moderately taxing exercise for their first three months.
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Erin J. Howden, Satyam Sarma, Justin S. Lawley, Mildred Opondo, William Cornwell, Douglas Stoller, Marcus A. Urey, Beverley Adams-Huet, Benjamin D. Levine. Reversing the Cardiac Effects of Sedentary Aging in Middle Age—A Randomized Controlled Trial: Implications For Heart Failure Prevention. Circulation, 2018; CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030617 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030617