Lifelong exercise builds heart muscle

Research from the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans has found that exercising consistently throughout life helps to preserve muscle in the heart to the point where they can match that of a younger individual.

The study, which involved 121 individuals who had no history of heart disease, set out to find whether physical activity improved elasticity in the heart.

Interestingly the experts found that the elderly participants with a documented history of exercising between six and seven times a week managed to build up their heart mass, which was greater than in some healthy 25 – 34 year olds.

Of the 121 healthy individuals who took part, 59 were considered sedentary subjects and 62 were lifelong exercisers, all aged over 65. All participants were asked about their regular exercise habits and lifestyle before beginning the study to give researchers a clearer picture of fitness and exercise levels.

When the study began, exercise was assessed based on the number of aerobic sessions each person attended as opposed to how long they lasted or the intensity of the exercise. Subjects were then divided into four groups, non-exercisers, casual exercisers, committed exercisers and master athlete.

It was found that those who exercised the least frequently appeared to have diminished heart mass as they aged, whilst lifelong exercisers experienced heart mass expansion as they increased the frequency of their exercise.

Study leader Benjamin Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said the data suggests that if ‘sedentary’ individuals can be identified when middle-aged and are encouraged to exercise between four and five times a week, this may go a long way in helping to prevent many major heart conditions which occur in old age.

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Emma Hilton

Written by Emma Hilton

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