Heart boosted by training at any age

I read with interest this week that the benefits of endurance exercise can be felt no matter how young or old you are. Adults who start running or cycling past the age of 40 feel the same health effects as those who start before 30, new research says.

I’m glad to hear that. Although I’ve exercised sporadically since leaving school, I wouldn’t say it’s ever reached the level of ‘consistent’, so now I know I haven’t left it too late if I did want to give my fitness a boost.

In the study, David Matelot of the Inserm 1099 unit in Rennes, France, looked at 40 healthy men aged 55 to 70 years, with no heart problems. The men had done various levels of exercise previously — ten had never exercised for more than two hours a week, and 30 had done «relatively intensive» endurance exercise for at least seven hours a week for over five years. This second group were divided into those who began regular exercise before 30 or after 40.

Resting heart rate was similar in the two exercise groups, but noticeably faster in the non-exercising men. «Maximal oxygen uptake» — oxygen consumption on a treadmill test — was also similar in the two exercise groups, and significantly lower in the non-exercising men. Heart scans showed stronger heart muscles in the exercising men.

These measurements are important, said Matelot, «because they are related to cardiovascular health and wellbeing.» He added, «despite biological chan
ges with age, the heart still seems, even at the age of 40, amenable to modification by endurance training.»

But he pointed out that endurance training also helps the bones and muscles stay strong, so the earlier we start the better. «But it’s never too late to change your way of life and get more physically active,» said Matelot.

Good news!