Study author Dr Benjamin Levine from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said: 'We found what we believe to be the optimal dose of the right kind of exercise, which is four to five times a week, and the "sweet spot" in time, when the heart risk from a lifetime of sedentary behavior can be improved - which is late-middle age.
The new research examined whether this aging-related heart damage could be reversed by exercise.
Researchers from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute found exercising at a high or moderate intensity for two years could reverse the effects of being sedentary on the heart.
What wasn't known is how late in life a person can act to reduce that risk, and how much effort this would require.
Combining yoga with aerobic exercise can also benefit hearts.
How the right "dose" of exercise can reverse aging-related heart damage
They found those who had worked out around four days a week had healthier hearts and also found that their oxygen uptake was also good. An earlier study suggested that exercising only two to three times per week was not enough to achieve the full beneficial effects. "That doesn't mean it had no benefits, but it wasn't enough to preserve that youthful rubber-band-like compliance".
Previous studies have shown improvements in heart elasticity in young people after a year of training, but little change if the training was started after the age of 65, the report's authors said.
A 4- to 5-day-per-week exercise routine, maintained consistently for two years, managed to rewind the effects of decades of sitting for a group of 52 middle-aged Texans.
For their study, the investigators had randomized 61 middle-aged participants, 52 of whom stayed for 2 years in their exercise training (n=28) or attention control group (n=24).
Of those four-to-five weekly sessions, one needs to be a high-intensity 30-minute workout structured around a "4x4" pattern: four four-minute bursts of cardio where your heart rate tops 95 percent of its maximum, each one followed by moderate-intensity intervals of active recovery lasting three minutes. In addition, exercise physiologists met participants monthly throughout the intervention as training frequency, duration, and intensity progressed over time.
One of the participants, aged 55, exercising on a treadmill.
In general, the recommended exercise consists of 30-minute sessions, plus warmup and cool-down.
"People generally like interval sessions because they don't last as long", Levine said. Patients with heart disease who participate in yoga as well as aerobic exercise doubled reductions in blood pressure, body mass index, and cholesterol levels when compared to patients who practiced only yoga or aerobic exercise, says a recent report sponsored by the American College of Cardiology. It includes one high-intensity aerobic session, two or three days a week of moderate-intensity exercise, one weekly strength training session, one long session of aerobic exercise a week, such as an hour of tennis, cycling, running, dancing or brisk walking.
Two years later, the exercise group had notably more youthful hearts than the control group that went without regular aerobic exercise, the researchers found. Try to shake hand with a healthy lifestyle that can bring many positive things to you.
Even though the participants were on their own for most of those sessions, they got a lot of guidance about what to do, Levine said.
"It's my prescription for life", Levine said. "You need to find ways to incorporate it into your daily activities".
Heart health expert Dr. Nieca Goldberg agreed that the program tested in this study is "a reasonable goal for most people".
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"All I could think about all day was I'm not going to let this beat me, I'm not going to let it kill me at all", he said.