The aging process makes the heart muscle become stiffer, and the amount of oxygen-rich blood that the left ventricle of the heart muscle can pump into the body decreases. The possible end result? Heart failure, a a medical condition in which the body languishes due to an oxygen deficiency. American cardiologists discovered that a cardio training program can reverse that aging process in inactive people in their fifties.
The researchers, associated with Texas Health Resources and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, divided 61 healthy inactive people aged 45-64 into 2 groups. In the over fifties group, a pre-stadium of heart failure is often already present.
One group did 2 years of cardio and strength training, the other group did yoga and strength training. The latter group functioned as a control group.
In the first 9 months of the experiment, the researchers gradually increased the intensity of the cardio training sessions, and then kept them constant. You can read more about the cardio training at the bottom of this page.
After 9 months [Mid] and after 2 years [Post] the researchers determined the amount of blood the left ventricle of their heart muscle could pump into the body. They saw that the cardio training had increased this by 17%.
The maximal oxygen uptake [VO2max], the most important determinant of endurance, was increased by 18 percent in the cardio group.
This means that intensive cardio training can reverse an important part of the cardiovascular aging process, the researchers conclude. “Lifestyle modification with an optimized exercise program including high-intensity and moderate intensity exercise training is an effective strategy to reverse the effects of sedentary aging on the heart”, they wrote.
“Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past 5 years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life”, says research leader Benjamin Levine of University of Texas in a press release. [sciencedaily.com January 8, 2018] “I think people should be able to do this as part of their personal hygiene – just like brushing your teeth and taking a shower.”
The training program that Levine is referring to is a stripped-down version of the program with which he and his employees experimented with. It consists of 4 workouts per week. Perhaps the most important workout is an interval training, which consists of 4 cycles. Each cycle consists of 4 minutes of intensive exercise with an intensity of 95 percent of the maximum heart rate, followed by a recovery period of 3 minutes during which you run or cycle with a low intensity.
The 3 other workouts consist of moderately intensive activity of at least one hour. The intensity still allows having a conversation. During 2 of these workouts you also work out with weights. Strength training on days where you do not do cardio training is also allowed.
More precise information can be found in the publication by Levine and his colleagues. The article is fully available.