A ‘Dose’ Of Exercise, Prescription For Life!

Exercise can reverse damage to sedentary, ageing hearts and help prevent risk of future heart failure – if it’s enough exercise, and if it’s begun in time, says a new study by cardiologists at UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources.

However, say researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM), which is collaboration between UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources, to reap the most benefit, the exercise regimen should begin by late middle age (before age 65), when the heart apparently retains some plasticity and ability to remodel itself. It also needs to be performed more than two to three times a week, as opposed to what an earlier study had recommended.

The regimen includes exercising four to five times a week, generally in 30-minute sessions, plus warm up and cool-down:

  • One of the weekly sessions includes a high-intensity 30-minute workout, such as aerobic interval sessions in which heart rate tops 95% of peak rate for four minutes, with three minutes of recovery, repeated four times (a so-called ‘4 x 4’).
  • Each interval session is followed by a recovery session performed at relatively low intensity.
  • One day’s session lasts an hour and is of moderate intensity. (This longer session could be a fun activity such as tennis, aerobic dancing, walking, or biking.)
  • One or two other sessions performed each week at a moderate intensity, meaning the participant would break a sweat, are a little short of breath, but still are able to carry on a conversation – the ‘talk test’. In the study, exercise sessions were individually prescribed, based on exercise tests and heart rate monitoring.
  • One or two weekly strength training sessions using weights or exercise machines included on a separate day, or after an endurance session.

Says senior author Dr Benjamin Levine, Director of the Institute and Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, “Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past five years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life. I think people should be able to do this as part of their personal hygiene – just like brushing your teeth and taking a shower.”

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