New US research has suggested that to slow down heart aging, exercising four to five days a week for life is ideal.

Carried out by researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the study set out to look at whether the recommended levels of exercise, which suggest four to five 30-minute workouts per week, are enough to slow down aging of the heart and blood vessels.

The team looked at 102 participants over 60 years of age, who had consistently exercised throughout their life.

Participants were categorized into groups depending on their lifelong exercise history, and how many exercise sessions of at least 30 minutes they did each week.

Sedentary was defined as less than two exercise sessions per week, Casual Exercisers were those who did two to three exercise sessions per week, Committed Exercisers managed four to five exercise sessions per week (in line with current guidelines), and Masters Athletes completed six to seven exercise sessions per week.

The team also gathered measures of each participant’s arterial stiffness.

The results showed that those who had a lifelong history of casual exercise (two to three times a week) had more youthful middle-sized arteries, which supply oxygenated blood to the head and neck.

However, those who met the current guidelines and exercised four to five times per week throughout their life not only had more youthful middle-sized arteries but also more youthful large central arteries, which provide blood to the chest and abdomen.

While any form of exercise helps reduce the overall risk of death from heart problems, the new research suggests that the different sizes of arteries are affected differently by varying amounts of exercise, which could be important information for developing long-term exercise programmes.

Benjamin Levine, one of the authors of the study, commented, “This work is really exciting because it enables us to develop exercise programmes to keep the heart youthful and even turn back time on older hearts and blood vessels.”

“Previous work by our group has shown that waiting until 70 is too late to reverse a heart’s ageing, as it is difficult to change cardiovascular structure even with a year of training. Our current work is focusing on two years of training in middle aged men and women, with and without risk factors for heart diseases, to see if we can reverse the ageing of a heart and blood vessels by using the right amount of exercise at the right time”.

The results were published in The Journal of Physiology.


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