"Regular exercise training may provide protection against the future risk of heart failure with a preserved ejection fraction by preventing the increase in cardiac stiffness attributable to sedentary aging", they concluded.
In general, the recommended exercise consists of 30-minute sessions, plus warmup and cool-down.
For the study, researchers recruited 53 middle-aged volunteers aged 45 to 64 who self-reported having a sedentary, lazy lifestyle. Majority of the study's participants belonged to white, and there is no confirmation that it can be applied to other racial groups. Once they built enough stamina, two high-intensity aerobic intervals were added to the first group.
At the end of two years, the control group's cardiovascular health was unchanged.
Results reveal, after two years of exercise, middle-aged people's oxygen intake during activity increases by 18 percent, while their heart muscle flexibility is boosted by 25 percent. Those who did the yoga and weight sessions, however, did not show improved heart health.
One of the weekly sessions included a high-intensity 30-minute workout, such as aerobic interval sessions in which heart rate tops 95 percent of peak rate for 4 minutes, with 3 minutes of recovery, repeated four times (a so-called "4 x 4").
One or two other sessions should be aerobic workouts specially prescribed to each participant, performed at a moderate intensity.
Weight training at least one day a week should be part of the couch-potato fix reginmen. 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.
In this study, maximum heart rate was defined as the hardest a person could exercise and still complete the four-minute interval. The goal is to break a sweat but not get out of breath.
- One or two weekly strength training sessions using weights or exercise machines were included on a separate day‚ or after an endurance session.
Dr Levine told the BBC the take-home message from the research is that exercise needs to be a part of people's personal hygiene, like teeth brushing.
Dr. Levine, shown here in front of his laboratory's hyper/hypobaric environmental chamber, which is used to simulate high altitude, deep diving, and space-like conditions in studies of human performance....
To reap the most benefit, the exercise regimen should begin by late middle age (before age 65), when the heart apparently retains some plasticity and ability to remodel itself. The entire study was published in the journal Circulation.
"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".
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.
Senior author on the new study Benjamin Levine explains, "When the muscle stiffens, you get high pressure and the heart chamber doesn't fill as well with blood". Then the exercise physiologists running the study started pushing those participants to do more intense forms of exercise.
If you're a couch potato anxious about your heart, you can take charge and reverse damage that's already occurred if you begin in time, says a new study by cardiologists at UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources.
"I think people should be able to do this as part of their personal hygiene - just like brushing your teeth and taking a shower", Levine said.