Exercise Benefits Heart Health as We Age
Exercise may well be the real fountain of youth that Spanish conquistadors never found. Despite this, it’s often easier to skip working out as sometimes life gets in the way. So if you need a little motivation to get out there today and sweat, read this blog.
What Lack of Exercise Does to the Heart
First, understand what exercise does to the heart—exercise is a well-known tool for, among many other things, protecting the heart and helping it stay healthy and strong. So it should come as no surprise to anyone at this point that exercise is a huge benefit to heart health.
Lack of exercise, or a sedentary lifestyle, on the other hand, is well-associated with vascular stiffness (not just in the cardiac vessels but in peripheral arteries throughout the body); stiffness of the left ventricle of the heart, which not only decreases the amount of oxygenated blood the heart can pump out to the rest of the body but also decreases the amount of oxygenated blood it can accept from the lungs; and increased pressure not just on the heart itself but also throughout the blood-circulating system.
What Our Blood Tells Us About Exercise and Heart Health
The blood can provide some evidence about the health of your body. A new study consisted of over 1,600 participants aged 60 to 64 and investigated evidence of cardiovascular disease in both active and sedentary groups over a five-day period. Researchers examined blood samples for certain cardiovascular disease biomarkers, including inflammatory markers, and also looked at to what degree fat mass impacted their findings. The results? Blood markers for cardiovascular disease were found to be more favorable in those participating in light, moderate, and vigorous activity when compared to those who were sedentary. Participants who weighed more due to obesity still appreciated a benefit to their cardiovascular biomarkers with activity; however, being heavier partially lessened the effect, especially in women.
What Else Do We Know About Exercise and Heart Health?
Those who have a life-long relationship with exercise, understandably, have a leg up on heart health when compared to those who’ve spent most of their lives sedentary; however, even if you’re middle aged or beyond, this doesn’t mean just because you haven’t had an active lifestyle, it’s pointless to start now. Starting and sticking with an exercise program, even in middle age and later, has been shown to lower heart-failure risk.
How much can a previously unfit middle-aged person expect to lower their heart risk by starting exercise (four to five times a week for at least 30 minutes)? A longer-term study found that after two years of exercise, stiffness in the left ventricle (the chamber of the heart responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to the rest of the body) decreased by 25%! So, no matter your age, don’t let your brain tell your body it’s too late to start.
Whether you’ve been exercising for a long time or you’re just getting started, how much exercise, exactly, is needed to appreciate those cardiovascular benefits? If you plug this question into your search engine, you’re likely to get answers from every point on the spectrum. While the AHA recommends a certain weekly minimum (i.e., moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week 30 minutes a day or an equivalent combo of aerobic and weight training), research has found that those who participate in even casual exercise at only two to three times a week, when compared to their sedentary counterparts, experience cardiovascular benefits. These include lower pressure in their peripheral arteries, less stiffness in their carotid artery, and less ventricular pressure in the heart.
So even minimal amounts of reduced pressure on the cardiovascular system and less stiffness in the arteries can benefit the heart. The key is to just start exercising, keep at it, and always aim to challenge yourself as your stamina increases.
The upshot? You need to get out there and exercise! It’s critical to keeping you alive and healthy. Our bodies were built to move and to perform tremendous amounts of work, which is needed for proper regeneration of worn out tissues. Hence, body systems start to go bad when not exercised!