Regular Exercise in Middle Age Can Build Heart Muscle

April 8, 2011

Exercising at least 4 times a week can increase left ventricular mass and preserve elasticity, thereby reducing the risk of diastolic heart failure. Researchers from Texas presented their study results at the American College of Cardiology’s 60th Annual Scientific Session.

Exercising at least 4 times a week can increase left ventricular (LV) mass and preserve elasticity, thereby reducing the risk of diastolic heart failure. Researchers from Texas presented their study results at the American College of Cardiology’s 60th Annual Scientific Session.

The study included 121 healthy persons with no evidence of heart disease who were either sedentary or lifelong exercisers. The 59 sedentary participants were recruited from the Dallas Heart Study, and the 62 lifelong exercisers were recruited primarily from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, a study that has documented lifelong exercise training patterns over 25 years.

The lifelong exercisers, all of whom were older than age 65, were stratified into 1 of 4 exercise groups based on their exercise history: non-exercisers, "casual exercisers" (2 or 3 times a week), "committed exercisers" (4 or 5 times a week), and "Masters athletes" (6 or 7 times a week). Cardiac MRI was used to measure LV mass.

Heart mass diminished in sedentary subjects as they aged, while it increased in the lifelong exercisers. The committed exercisers and Masters athletes had heart mass that was similar to or exceeded that of healthy young sedentary subjects.

"The data suggest that if we can identify people in middle age, in the 45- to 60-year range, and get them to exercise 4 to 5 times a week, this may go a very long way in preventing some of the major heart conditions of old age, including heart failure," said Benjamin Levine, MD, the lead investigator of the study.

Levine B, Bhella P, et al. Lifelong Exercise Training Demonstrates a Dose Dependent Effect on MRI Derived Left Ventricular Mass: Implications for Defining Population Norms and Left Ventricular Hypertrophy. Presented at ACC 2011. April 3, 2011. New Orleans, La.

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