Health Watch -- Endurance Training (Part 2)

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


Changing your lifestyle could help change the way you age.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have found that a stiffening of the heart muscle associated with age can be prevented with regular exercise. It wasn't age that caused the heart muscle to stiffen. Instead, a sedentary lifestyle was the culprit. A stiffened heart muscle can lead to heart failure.

Dr. Benjamin Levine, a UT Southwestern cardiologist and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, says if more people would make an effort to exercise regularly, it could make a huge impact on the health of the overall population. It could significantly reduce the incidence of heart failure.

It's never too late to start exercising for your heart. Starting and sticking to an exercise program may even help reverse the damage done to the heart early in life. Sedentary seniors from the UT Southwestern study were given the option of participating in a specially designed training program. Those who started exercising were seeing improvements within a year. Their hearts were already more muscular and flexible.

The study compared sedentary seniors with Masters athletes - older adults who compete in sports like track and swimming. Few of the Masters athletes had been lifelong athletes or elite athletes in their youth. Many of them didn't start training until they were in their 30s.

The important thing to do is find an activity you can enjoy, and make it a daily, lifelong habit. The result could be a longer life.

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Oct. 2004

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