important menopause information
It's not too late to exercise: benefits for the heart (and a look at high-intensity interval training)
A study published in the Journal, Circulation, in January 2018, demonstrated that increasing your exercise routine in mid-life can improve your heart function and reverse some of the effects of aging. Poor fitness in middle-age is a risk factor for heart failure.
The study looked at 61 adults, aged 45 to 64, who were healthy but who lived a sedentary life style. The researchers divided up the group in two. In the control group, the participants were asked to do yoga, balance exercises, and strength training three times per week. The study group was given a moderate exercise plan, which was ramped up as the study continued. They were given high-intensity interval training as part of the routine. After six months, the exercise group was up to 5-6 hours of exercise per week. At least two days involved high-intensity interval training.
So, let’s define high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and its benefits. HIIT is defined as alternating hard-charging intervals of exercise which increases the heart rate to 80% of
its maximum capacity for usually 1-5 minutes, with periods of rest or less intense exercise.
To determine your maximum heart rate, you can use this formula: 220 minus your age.
Then, your target heart rate for exercise is 50-85% of that.
So for example, if you are 66 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 220-66=154.
50-85% of that is a heart rate of 77-131. 80% of 154 is 123. During the high intensity intervals you would want to get your heart rate up to 123. ALWAYS, BEFORE YOU START AN INTENSE EXERCISE REGIME, MAKE SURE YOUR DOCTOR ASSERTS THAT YOUR HEART IS IN GOOD SHAPE. YOU MIGHT NEED A CARDIAC EVALUATION IF YOUR ARE OLDER OR HAVE RISK FACTORS.
An example of a HIIT routine if you were a runner would be a 10 minute warm up, followed by 4 intervals of 4 minutes of fast running interspersed with 3 minutes of brisk walking, followed at the end by a 5 minute cool down.
Another example would be alternating 1 minute of high intensity exercise with one minute of less intense exercise, for a total of 20 minutes. This could be done walking, on a treadmill, bike, elliptical, or almost any other type of exercise amenable to changing intensity.
Scientists that have studied this type of training have found cardiac benefits. VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that your body uses during intense activity during a specific amount of time. It is one of the best predictors of overall
health. If you are more aerobically fit, your heart pumps better and it takes longer for you to tire and become breathless. Studies have shown similar increases in VO2
max in comparing groups that exercised at 50 minutes versus those who exercised only
for 10 minutes with high-intensity intervals that added up to 1 minute total. Wow!
Same cardiac benefit for 20% of the time. Nice!
A study done by Martin Gabala at McMaster University in Canada, a leading expert in HIIT, demonstrated that obese sedentary adults that exercise three times per week for a total of only 30 minutes, about 10 minutes each time, with 3, 20 second high-intensity intervals, improved their VO2 max. It did not take much to improve cardiac function.
Studies that compared different types of interval training determined that longer high-intensity intervals had greater benefit, which would be expected. To get the maximum benefit, 4-5 intervals lasting 3-5 minutes were required.
Besides increased VO2 max, HIIT increased stroke volume in the heart, which is the amount of blood ejected with each heart beat. Calorie consumption with HIIT of 20 minutes is comparable to an endurance exercise of 50 minutes, but the effect on weight loss is less impressive. There is not enough data to suggest that HIIT is a more effective way to lose weight. In general, caloric restriction is far more effective way to lose weight than exercise. Studies have shown that the amount of weight loss is less than expected for the number of calories expended during exercise. But don’t despair, there are still many health benefits of exercise. ,
Of those who completed the study, about 86%, cardiac changes were noted that included increased fitness measured by oxygen consumption, and increased cardiac contractility or stretchiness, which increased the hearts ability to pump blood.
The authors of the study recommended starting an exercise regime sooner than later, before you develop joint problems or other health issues that can affect your ability to exercise. However, at any age, beginning an exercise routine can reduce the risk of heart disease, and help manage blood pressure and blood sugar. The benefits to your bones and preventing falls that can lead to fractures are also an important benefit.
In summary, beginning exercise at any age can have cardiac benefits, just make sure your heart can handle it. If you up the ante by doing high-intensity interval training you will get a similar cardiac benefit in less time. The longer the intervals you can sustain provide more substantial are the benefits. The bottom line, it is never too late to begin exercising!
Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Volume 26. Number 5, January 2019.
Regular exercise helps reverse age-related changes in your heart.
Circulation. Volume 137, Issue 15. April 10, 2018.
Randomized Control Trial: Implications for Heart Failure Prevention
Vox. How to get the most out of your exercise time, according to science, by Julia Belluz,
updated January 13, 2019.