Exercise lowers risk of heart failure later in life, study suggests

8 January 2018        

Category: BHF Comment

A study published today in Circulation suggests that the middle-aged can reduce their risk of heart failure later in life, by doing aerobic exercise.

Couple on bike ride 

Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are at greater risk of heart disease. In fact, more than 5 million deaths worldwide are attributed to physical inactivity.

Dr Benjamin Levine, lead author of this study and the founder and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, believes aerobic exercise in the middle-aged can protect their hearts from heart failure later in life - a devastating heart condition which currently has no cure. 

Keep the ticker pumping

The researchers analysed the hearts of 53 adults aged 45-64 who were healthy but had no history of exercising regularly. The participants were divided into two groups, with one following an aerobic exercise routine that progressed in intensity over two years and another doing yoga, balance training and weight training three times a week for two years.

They found that over the two years, the aerobic exercise group had significantly decreased stiffness of the heart muscle, and showed improvements in how the body uses oxygen.

Specifically, the research team believe the optimal dose of exercise for late-middle aged people is four to five times a week.

Julie Ward, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said:

“This very small study suggests that exercise in middle age could prevent the onset of heart failure later in life - a debilitating heart condition with no cure.

Although interesting, a much larger study is needed to evaluate these findings in specific people who are at risk of developing heart failure.

What we do know is that moderate intensity exercise, at any age, can improve your heart health as well as lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol and helping you lose excess weight. Just 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day will make a big difference – anything that increases your heart rate and makes you breathe a little faster will improve your health.”

Find out more about exercise and the heart