We all know that exercise is good for the body. Most of us know that it’s good for the heart as well.
But recently it was discovered that consistent exercise over time actually builds heart muscle and keeps your heart young. It seems to make some sense though. When you walk, run and move, you keep your muscles in good shape. Stretching and weight lifting keep you strong and limber. It makes sense that using your muscles would do that. But your heart is always working, pumping that blood through the body. How does exercise really change that fact? What can you do to exercise your heart?
The recent study included a number of people over the age of 65 who had been included in a previous study that followed their exercise patterns for nearly 25 years. The original study divided the participants by how much exercise they did on a weekly basis. The group was evaluated by number of weekly sessions rather then by the length or intensity of the individual work outs. When a heart mass MRI was taken, the differences were profound. Those who exercised casually, 2-3 times a week, had lost heart mass compared to the young adult group (aged 24-35). Those classified as “master athletes” who exercised 6-7 times a week showed increased heart mass. In some cases those “master athletes” who are over the age of 65 had more heart mass than young adults who had a sedentary lifestyle.
What this shows us is that youth can truly be wasted. Exercise isn’t only about losing weight or staying in shape. It’s about preparing your body for the future. When you increase your heart rate, you are not only providing benefits to your body systemically, you are actually giving your heart muscle a workout. You are providing a cushion for that vital organ, building its strength and stamina. As we age, we lose lots of things, but we can stop this process. Muscle mass declines as we age. Strength training helps minimize this effect. It makes sense then that keeping your heart muscle safe will allow it to better withstand the ravages of aging. It is believed that if middle aged adults can be coaxed off the couch, they will be able to re-build lost heart muscle and live a longer, healthier life. They may also reduce the risk of major heart conditions including congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and heart attach, that are associated with aging.