Old Hearts Need Exercise

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 10:04 AM

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When it comes to exercise, the myth I hear most often from patients is that old hearts need rest. But, in fact, the opposite is true: The older you are, the more your body needs — and craves — exercise.

The idea that rest was good for the heart went out of mode decades ago. Today, even heart patients are told to get out of bed and start moving as soon as possible, and with good reason. Simply put: Your body is designed to move.

For instance, a 2012 study that surveyed 220,000 adults found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day had a 15 percent greater risk of dying within three years than those who sat fewer than four hours a day. And the results increased the longer the sitting period. In fact, this study showed that people who sat for 11 hours a day had a 40
percent higher risk of dying.

That certainly isn’t the first study to point out this problem. Research over the past several years finds that prolonged periods of inactivity, whether it’s sitting in front of the TV or at your desk in front of the computer, is also correlated with increased risk for every type of cardiovascular risk factor, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (a combination of these conditions). Prolonged inactivity is also linked with depression, cancer, and possibly even Alzheimer’s
disease.

Recently, researchers presented a study on exercise to the American Society of Hypertension 2013 Scientific Sessions. They looked at the idea that exercise could play a key role in preventing age-related decline.

They examined the benefits of exercise in 2,077 men over the age of 70 with high blood pressure. The researchers used METs, a measure of energy expended during peak workload, to classify the participants in terms of fitness.

In the study, 685 subjects were classified as having low levels of aerobic fitness; 786 had
moderate levels; and 606 had high levels. The researchers found that for every 1-MET increase in exercise capacity, the risk of all-cause mortality fell by 8 percent.

In fact overall, mortality was 15 percent lower in those 70-and-older men with moderate levels of aerobic fitness, and 37 percent lower in the most fit. The oldest participant in this study was 93 years old! The point here is that you have to maintain a certain level of fitness, no matter what your age, or your body begins to decline.

“We know this from broken limbs and from astronauts returning from space — if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Peter Kokkinos, in an interview about the study.

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