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Never too late to start exercising

Scientists have found that two years of consistent exercise can reverse the damage caused by years of sedentary non-active life.

According to Dr. Benjamin Levine, lead author of the study which was published in the latest issue of the journal Circulation, “the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life,”could hold the key to healthier heart. To reap the most benefit, your exercise programme should begin by late middle age (before age 65), when the heart apparently retains some plasticity and ability to remodel itself, according to the findings by Levine and colleagues.

The programme included exercising four to five times a week, generally in 30-minute sessions, plus warmup and cool-down:

  • One of the weekly sessions included a high-intensity 30-minute workout, such as aerobic interval sessions in which heart rate tops 95 percent of peak rate for 4 minutes, with 3 minutes of recovery, repeated four times (a so-called “4 x 4”).
  • Each interval session was followed by a recovery session performed at relatively low intensity.
  • One day’s session lasted an hour and was of moderate intensity. (As a “prescription for life,” Levine said this longer session could be a fun activity such as tennis, aerobic dancing, walking, or biking.)
  • One or two other sessions were performed each week at a moderate intensity, meaning the participant would break a sweat, be a little short of breath, but still be able to carry on a conversation — the “talk test.” In this particular study, exercise sessions were individually prescribed based on exercise tests and heart rate monitoring.
  • One or two weekly strength training sessions using weights or exercise machines were included on a separate day, or after an endurance session.

“Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past 5 years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life,” said Levine. Leading a sedentary lifestyle causes the stiffening of the muscle in the heart’s left ventricle, the chamber that pump oxygen-rich blood back out to the body. “When the muscle stiffens, you get high pressure and the heart chamber doesn’t fill as well with blood. In its most severe form, blood can back up into the lungs. That’s when heart failure develops,” Levine explained.

“If the goal is to preserve youthful arteries and heart function, then exercise four to five days a week is what it takes.”

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