If you’re a middle-aged person who hasn’t been much into physical fitness, starting an aerobic exercise routine can pay amazing health dividends.

Getting in shape even in your 60s could take years off your heart, a recent study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation showed.

Sedentary people who participated in 2 years of regular, moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise had significant improvements in the function and elasticity of their hearts.

The findings suggest a committed exercise routine like the one studied can rejuvenate middle-aged hearts and lower the risk of heart failure, said Dr. Wissam Gharib, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and director of the structural heart program at Mon Health Heart and Vascular Center.

Regular aerobic exercise may be a fountain of youth for your heart,” said Dr. Gharib. “A sedentary lifestyle over years and decades can cause the heart muscle to shrink and grow stiff, increasing your risk of heart failure. We see in this study individuals whose hearts became younger and stronger.”

About the heart study

The study involved 53 adults ages 45 to 64 who were sedentary but in good health.

They were divided into 2 groups: one group was assigned a trainer and did aerobic exercise at least 4 days a week. The other group did non-aerobic exercise such as yoga and weight training.

A key factor in the aerobic workouts was interval training.

In interval training, the aerobic group did 4 minutes of high-intensity exercise followed by a few minutes of more moderate exercise. Improvements they had in heart function after 2 years did not appear in the other group that did less intense workouts.

“Pushing their hearts to near the maximum rate appears to have made the difference. But not every middle-aged adult is able to exercise at that level,” Dr. Gharib said.“Most important is that any type of regular exercise is good for your heart and overall health. This study is interesting because it looked at specific changes in the heart, but we know even modest exercise such as walking and gardening reduces risk of heart disease and other ailments.”

Before you embark on high-intensity workouts, talk with your doctor about any potential health issues, Dr. Gharib said. And start slowly.

“If you can’t exercise at high intensity, don’t sweat it,” Dr. Gharib said. “Just get moving!”

Learn more about the Mon Health Heart & Vascular Center or schedule an appointment at 304-278-6562.

Emily K. Gallagher
Multimedia Coordinator 

Marketing Department
Mon Health Medical Center
Morgantown, WV