Sedentary middle-aged adults are more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who exercise, a study has found, showing that physical activity has major heart-health benefits for persons in their 40s and 50s.
The recent study included 61 middle-aged adults who were all healthy but had very little or no regular physical activity. The average age of participants was 53, and roughly half were female.
According to cardiosmart.org half of participants were randomly assigned to a two-year personalized exercise program that steadily increased up to 5–6 hours of training a week. The program incorporated aerobic and strength training and included activities such as running on a treadmill, biking and swimming.
The second half of participants were assigned to a control program, which was less intensive and focused on balance and flexibility. The program included yoga, balance and strength training three times a week for two years.
After two years, researchers found the intensive exercise program increased participants’ fitness levels by 18%. The exercise program also helped reduce heart stiffness, which is an important indicator of heart function and risk for heart failure. According to authors of the study, increasing physical activity could have significant cardiovascular benefits. Guidelines recommend at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise to promote better health. Working toward this goal, even in your 50s or 60s, could both improve fitness and reduce risk for conditions like heart failure.