Research has found that intense exercise in middle age can forestall the impacts of a previously sedentary lifestyle and make your heart flexible and young again.
With a sedentary lifestyle the left ventricle of the heart becomes increasingly stiff, and is a precursor to heart attacks in mid life and old age.
An important study has found that a prolonged two-year period of exercise, initiated in middle age, increases maximal oxygen uptake and decreases cardiac stiffness in previously sedentary but otherwise healthy middle-aged adults.
This results in protection against future heart failure.
In the paper, published in the journal Circulation, the authors state: “We demonstrate for the first time that exercise training, predominantly endurance in nature, improves LV and myocardial stiffness in sedentary, but otherwise healthy middle-aged adults.”
Poor fitness in middle age is a strong predictor of future risk of heart failure and, waiting until heart failure develops or older age cements the effects of a sedentary life-style may be too late, they say.
In the study some subjects were randomly assigned a medium to high intensity program.
“Our exercise prescription, which was evidence based, proved to be highly effective in enhancing cardiovascular structure and function.
"The periodized design of the training program permitted participants to become accustomed to the frequency of training gradually. In addition, by varying the duration, intensity, and type of training over the course of the week, the training was not onerous and was feasible with excellent adherence to prescribed sessions.
"The exercise prescription used in this study closely reflects the current population-based exercise/physical activity recommendations of 150 minutes per week of physical activity, albeit with the addition of high intensity interval training.
"Moreover, a growing body of epidemiological evidence supports the beneficial impact of regularly exercising 4 days per week."