The health benefits of exercising have long been praised. However, the amount of exercise that can help keep the heart healthy remained a matter of heated debates. A recent research showed that different parts of the cardiovascular system require different minimal amounts of exercise to stay healthy as long as possible.
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As we age, our cardiovascular system is changing, and blood vessels, the blood transportation system, are stiffening. Arterial stiffness is a contributor to heart disease development, because the load on the heart increases, which can lead to left ventricular hypertrophy and remodelling, which in its turn can increase the risk of heart failure.
In a new research carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Texas, it was revealed that blood vessels of different sizes require different amounts of weekly exercise. Previous research showed that in order to effectively help medium-sized arteries stay youthful, one has to exercise 2 or 3 times per week, provided each session lasts at least 30 minutes. However, it turns out that it is not enough for larger arteries – the new findings suggest exercising 4-5 days a week is the optimal amount, as far as central arteries are concerned.
The study involved 102 volunteers who provided information about their exercise history throughout their lifetime. All the participants were older than sixty. The researchers measured arterial stiffness in the participants and divided them into four groups depending on the amount of weekly activity: those who led a sedentary lifestyle and did not exercise at all or did it less than two times per week; those who exercised two or three times a week; those with a history of exercising 4-5 times a week; and those who exercised every day or at least six times a week and participated in competitions on a regular basis. All of them adhered to their exercising patterns for over 25 years.
When the researchers analyzed the data they had collected, they found that exercising casually, i.e. 2-3 sessions/week, was associated with better middle-size artery health. However, in the case of larger central arteries, only 4-5 sessions sufficed, and such parameters as the central pulse wave velocity and biological aortic age were better among this group, compared to those who had a sedentary lifestyle. It is worthy of note that medium-sized arteries supply the head and neck, whereas the chest and abdomen are served by large central arteries. Small peripheral arteries did not seem to be affected by training.
Not a causation
Still, association does not mean causation, and the researchers did not adjust the results for exercise intensity and duration, diets, stress and other factors that could play a major role in stiffening and deterioration of arteries. Other activities not related to exercising proper could also contribute to arterial health.
It appears that any kind of exercise is beneficial for artery health, but regularity is also important. Moderate-intensity exercises are best, as they can be used by almost anyone. You can opt for swimming, cycling, running or doing exercises at home, which do not require significant investments. Calisthenics is another option you can consider if you do not want to go to the gym. Yoga exercises have been reported to be beneficial in a variety of ways. The wide range of exercises that even beginners can master enables you to maintain a sufficient level of physical activity to help your body stay functional.
The effect of lifelong exercise frequency on arterial stiffness – Physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com