Exercise can reverse damage to sedentary, aging hearts and help prevent risk of future heart failure, according to a new study by UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources.
The study, published in the journal Circulation, analysed the hearts of 53 adults aged 45-64 who were healthy but had no history of exercising regularly.
The study’s participants were divided into two groups, with one following an aerobic exercise routine that progressed in intensity over the two years and another doing yoga, balance training and weight training three times a week, also for two years.
After a gradual three-month buildup, the cardio group ultimately worked out four to five days a week and for 30 minutes at a time, including one high-intensity interval workout and one longer session.
Participants who stuck to the regime for two years showed significant improvements in how their body used oxygen and more elastic heart muscle, both signs of a much healthier heart.
“The result was a reversal of decades of a sedentary lifestyle on the heart for most of the study participants,” said Dr Levine.
The study found that exercise must begin before the age of 65, when the heart still has enough plasticity to repair itself.
“That’s my prescription for life, and this study really reinforces that it has quite extraordinary effects on the structure and function of the heart and blood vessels,” added Dr Levine.
“I recommend that people do four to five days a week of committed exercise as part of their goals in preserving their health.
“I think people should be able to do this as part of their personal hygiene – just like brushing your teeth and taking a shower.”