When it comes to staying in shape, just a few days of exercise a week can make a huge difference. However, when it comes to keeping a healthy heart as you advance in age, research suggests that you might need a slightly more rigorous workout routine. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American adults, regardless of gender. According to an article in the Star-Telegram, one of your best defenses is to find ways of exercising on a near-daily basis.
Research out just last month says that for Americans over the age of 65 in particular, the heart enjoys the greatest benefit after four to five days of exercise a week. When is comes to what researchers call ‘heart muscle flexibility,’ anything less just isn’t going to cut it. Those who succeed in making exercise and fitness a part of their day-to-day lives will enjoy the greatest heart health benefits.
According to the study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the muscles of the heart stiffen and lose flexibility with age. This, in turn, can contribute to an increase in your risk factors for heart disease and heart attack, including high blood pressure and diabetes. The goal of the study was to determine the extent to which regular exercise could serve to counteract this muscle-stiffening.
The study engaged 102 participants over the age of 65 across a six-year duration. Participants had no known history of illness or medical problems. Researchers observed key health indicators for participants as each adopted and maintained a steady exercise routine.
The results of the study suggest that your heart craves activity. Seniors who exercise at least four or five times a week had nearly the same level of heart flexibility as do young adults. Surprisingly, research found that heart muscle stiffening only improved after this four to five day commitment. Participants who exercised two to three times a week showed the same muscle stiffness as those who were entirely sedentary.
This is, of course, not to suggest that those who exercised just a few times a week made no health gains. Certainly, even a small window of exercise each week can lower your risk of obesity, heart attack and stroke. However, as this study shows, it takes a little more to counteract the effects of aging on your heart muscle flexibility.
The study confirms the Surgeon General’s advisory, which calls for every older adult to exercise at least 30 minutes a day for the majority of the week. This can be moderate exercise. You will see benefits from a low-impact routine provided that you do it frequently enough.
It also bears noting that you don’t have to, nor should you, exercise every single day. Researchers found that those who exercised six to seven days a week did not see significantly greater heart flexibility than their four to five day counterparts. Allow yourself one or two days of recovery time. This helps to prevent injury or burnout.
Perhaps most importantly, find something that you truly enjoy. When you love your exercise routine and the way it makes you feel, you’ll find it a lot easier to commit your time and energy. Your heart will thank you for it!