Being active over 50 improves heart health

It’s never too late to get started! New research shows regular exercise in midlife will protect your heart

While it is advisable to get regular physical activity throughout your life, new research shows that people who get active in their 50s will still gain the heart healthy benefits that exercise provides.

A new study, published in the journal Circulation, looked at 4,000 people who were in transition to retirement over a 10 year period to see how exercise — or a lack thereof — affected inflammation in their bodies.

Researchers found that people who got the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week (such as brisk walks and gardening) had lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood than people who remained sedentary. Inflammatory markers are a good indicator of risk for future heart issues as inflammation can lead to furring or hardening of the arteries and eventual heart disease.

Those who fulfilled the recommended amount of exercise over the entire 10 years finished the study with the lowest overall inflammatory levels.

Remarkably, 83 per cent of participants around retirement age did complete the recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity per week.

“We should be encouraging more people to get active — for example, walking instead of taking the bus. You can gain health benefits from moderate activity at any time in your life,” lead researcher Dr Mark Hamer of University College London told the BBC.

“Donning your gardening gloves or picking up a paint brush can still go a long way to help look after your heart health, as exercise can have a big impact on how well your heart ages,” said Maureen Talbot, representative of the British Heart Foundation, who funded the study. “This research highlights the positive impact changing your exercise habits can have on the future of your heart health – and that it’s never too late to re-energize your life.

“However it’s important not to wait until you retire to get off the couch, as being active for life is a great way to keep your heart healthy,” she continued.

While more research is needed — this study only looked at markers linked to heart problems rather than heart disease itself — it shows it is never too late to benefit from starting a regular exercise routine.

For more information, read the British Heart Foundation news release.

Sources: BBC, British Heart Foundation

Photo © Mooij

Exercise keeps you younger
Planning an exercise program
Smart exercise
Upgrade your walk to a full-body workout