A study of healthy senior men found that “relatively intensive” endurance exercise confers benefits on the heart irrespective of the age training was started. The benefits were evident and comparable in those who had started training before the age of 30 or after the age of 40. The study, which was performed in France, involved 40 healthy men without cardiovascular risk factors aged between 55 and 70 years. The male participants were divided for assessment according to the level of exercise they took and the ages at which they began, according to a news release from the European Society of Cardiology.

A total of 10 participants had never exercised for more than 2 hours a week throughout their lives, and 30 had exercised for at least 7 hours a week for over 5 years, either beginning the training before the age of 30 (T30) or after the age of 40 (T40). The regular exercise the men took was either running or cycling. The men were assessed by maximal exercise testing, echocardiography at rest and during submaximal exercise, and heart rate analysis.

The results of the study showed that resting heart rate was similar between the two exercise groups but notably faster in the non-exercising men. Also, maximal oxygen uptake was similar between the T30 and T4 groups, but significantly lower in the non-exercising men. Echocardiography revealed that the left ventricle and both atria were bigger in the T30 and T40 men than in the non-trainers, who showed thicker vessel walls than trainers.

In addition, the study also found no difference between T30 and T40 in cardiac echocardiography tests, and diastolic function and other measures of heart rate were also better in the T30 and T40 subjects. David Matelot, presenter of the study, explains, “Despite biological changes with age, the heart still seems — even at the age of 40 — amenable to modification by endurance training. Starting at the age of 40 does not seem to impair the cardiac benefits.”

Matelot adds, “However, endurance training is also beneficial for bone density, for muscle mass, for oxidative stress. And these benefits are known to be greater if training was started early in life. But it’s never too late to change your way of life and get more physically active. This will always be beneficial for the heart and well-being.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology