Think It’s Too Late to Get Fit? Think Again! How Exercise Can Save Your Heart

If you’re middle-aged and put more mileage on the couch than on your work out gear, take heart – it isn’t too late for yours. A new study published in the journal Circulation and reported by the BBC studied a group of 46-64-year-olds and revealed that by adding a dedicated fitness regimen, you can improve the health of your heart even following decades of inactivity and an all-too-typical lifestyle.

 If you can identify with the study participants, you’re not alone. Most jobs are eight (or more) hours at a desk, and many of us follow those up by unwinding from the day in front of the television or on our laptops, tablets, or smart phones. According to the study, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that your heart’s reaction to all this inactivity can be improved but the bad news is it won’t be a quick fix. The study in Circulation showed that the risk of heart failure can be reduced, but it takes work – the tough, focused, and specifically aerobic kind.

Study participants were as young as 46 and as old as 64 and otherwise healthy, but without a history of regular exercise. Researchers divided the group for two years of study: one half did increasingly intensive aerobic exercise, while the other half focused on weight training and yoga/balance training. At the study’s end, the aerobic exercise group had an increase in maximum oxygen intake (18%) and improved left ventricle “plasticity” (25%) – both findings indicating a definite improvement in heart health. The second study group did not have these heart health improvements.

What’s this mean for the average Joe or Jane? The study’s director, Dr. Levine, recommends adding an aerobic exercise regimen four to five times a week in late middle-age; in other words, instead of giving up on heart health, now is the time to kick into gear to improve it! The aerobic study group began with three 30-minute work out sessions a week, and worked their way up to more intense sessions, such as a full one-hour aerobic session like running, cycling, tennis, etc. Although it did take the two year period to see heart-health improvements, exercise essentially reversed decades of near-total inactivity. In other words, no matter how out of shape you may be now, you can only go up from here. Start slow, and work your way up to a more vigorous work out schedule. The study recommends treating exercise the same way you treat brushing your teeth – an important part of your day that you wouldn’t readily skip. With such promising health benefits, it’s certainly worth adding to your to-do list.

Struggling with where to start? As always, and especially if you have known health conditions, talk to your provider before beginning any new fitness plan. This is a great time to schedule with your physical therapist and address any issues holding you back. Another terrific option is our Sustained Optimal Performance program: work with a talented member of our team to develop a plan tailored to your health goals and addressing any balance/movement etc issues. Body One Physical Therapy has three locations serving Indianapolis: North Indy/Carmel, Fishers, and Zionsville and a dedicated team of highly-trained and caring providers to help you get back to your active life faster.