Exercise Rx for repairing couch potatoes' hearts

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New research finds hope for middle-aged couch potatoes as investigators that starting an exercise program, even after years of inactivity, may reduce or reverse the risk of heart failure.

The team investigated the effects of a training regime consisting of four to five workouts per week, each session lasting around 30 minutes plus warm-ups and cool-downs.

The study's participants were divided into two groups, with one following an aerobic exercise routine that progressed in intensity over the two years and another doing yoga, balance training and weight training three times a week, also for two years.

During the first three months, the participants performed only three moderate exercise sessions per week.

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Weight training at least one day a week should be part of the couch-potato repair reginmen

Results reveal, after two years of exercise, middle-aged people's oxygen intake during activity increases by 18 percent, while their heart muscle flexibility is boosted by 25 percent. For elder people, exercise can give them more benefits than this. One is an intensive exercise regimen may not be applicable in case of the general adult population.

'We found what we believe to be the optimal dose of the right kind of exercise, which is four to five times a week, and the "sweet spot" in time, when the heart risk from a lifetime of sedentary behavior can be improved - which is late-middle age'.

One or two other sessions should be aerobic workouts specially prescribed to each participant, performed at a moderate intensity.

One session lasted an hour and was of moderate activity, which could be a fun activity such as playing tennis, biking, walking, or dancing.

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Additionally, exercise increased LV end-diastolic volume, whereas pulmonary capillary wedge pressure was unchanged, meaning patients gained a greater stroke volume for any given filling pressure, Levine's group said.

The study based on the American Heart Association's exercise guidelines. The goal is to break a sweat but not get out of breath. Another session or two concentrated on strength training using weights or exercise machines.

"The key to a healthier heart in middle age is the right dose of exercise, at the right time in life", said study author Benjamin D. Levine, M.D., lead author of the study. "I think people should be able to do this as part of their personal hygiene - just like brushing your teeth and taking a shower".

Dr. Levine, shown here in front of his laboratory's hyper/hypobaric environmental chamber, which is used to simulate high altitude, deep diving, and space-like conditions in studies of human performance.... The entire study was published in the journal Circulation.

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In an earlier study, researchers found that the exercise needs to be performed four-to-five times a week.

This program is specifically created to be agreeable for middle-aged people who don't have the time or inclination to adhere to the same sort of workout program as elite athletes, Levine said.

Dr. Levine said in a statement that, "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.

"This study also demonstrated that exercise training can be adhered to by middle-aged adults over a prolonged period, suggesting that this may be an effective strategy to mitigate the deleterious effects of sedentary aging on the heart and forestall the development of heart failure with a preserved ejection fraction", Levine and colleagues said.

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The coaches encouraged people to mix it up so they wouldn't get bored with their workouts: They suggested participants mix in some trail running, swimming, elliptical training, and treadmill days.

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