Two years of regular exercise can significantly reduce heart damage in middle-aged adults, proves a new research published by the American Heart Association.
Heart failure is the leading cause of deaths in the United States, claiming more than half a million American lives each year. This means, it is responsible for one out of every four deaths in the country.
Anyone can contract heart failure, including children and adolescents. It develops when plaque builds up in the arteries, which gradually reduces the flow of blood into the heart over time. High cholesterol levels, as well as high blood pressure and diabetes, are among the most common risk factors for this disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also names several lifestyle practices that lead to heart failure, including smoking, unhealthy eating, and lack of exercise.
Regular High-Intensity Training Reduces Heart Damage
For two years, a research team at AHA monitored 52 male participants aged 45 to 64 years old who have lived a sedentary lifestyle. They were then divided into two groups.
The first half was asked to perform moderate to high-intensity exercise routines and resistance training for four to five days a week. For example, participants under this group joined a specialized interval training that involved four minutes of high-intensity training followed by another four minutes of recovery.
Meanwhile, the second half was engaged in "casual" exercise. They attended balance and flexibility training for only two to three sessions a week.
Throughout the study, the researchers tracked each participant's cardiovascular health. They report that individuals under the first group, those who regularly followed a moderate to a high-intensity exercise routine, exhibited significant improvement over time.
Their Vo2max, or the amount of oxygen used up by the body during exercise, rose by 18% and the stiffness of their heart muscles was greatly reduced. These changes put them at lower risk for heart failure and also lessens any existing heart damage. No improvement was observed in the cardiovascular health of the second group.
Based on these results, the researchers encourage people to exercise regularly even if they have remained sedentary for several years.
HIIT Is More Effective Than Moderate Exercise, Says Separate Study
A separate study in 2016 further investigated the effectiveness of moderate and high-intensity training on chronic illnesses, including heart failure.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina divided a group of patients diagnosed with heart failure into two. The first group was made to perform moderate exercise routines, while the other was asked to follow a customized high-intensity program.
After 10 weeks, they report that those who were involved in high-intensity training showed more significant improvement in terms of their Vo2max without increasing their medical risk.