Research Finds Seniors’ Hearts Can Benefit from High-Intensity Exercise

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Seniors who participate in high-intensity exercise are may see an improvement in their heart function, according to research led by a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist and presented at the 30th Annual American Society of Echocardiography Scientific Sessions in Portland, Oregon.

While at the University of California San Francisco, lead author Chete Eze-Nliam, M.D. – now a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic – and a team of researchers found diastolic function improved and systolic function remained unchanged in those seniors who exercise at a high intensity level.

Forty-five percent of the group regularly took part in high-intensity exercise. The high intensity group was likely to have their upper heart chamber more dilated than other groups. More studies are needed to understand why.

“Exercise is beneficial at all ages,” said Dr. Eze-Nliam. “As we age, our hearts age too. We found the more intense the exercise, the more the heart function improved.”

Participants were broken up into three groups based on the intensity and the sport, with echocardiograms performed on all study participants to show their heart function.  The groups included low intensity (i.e. casual walker), moderate intensity (i.e. tennis) and high intensity (i.e. sprint running).  Researchers studied 17 8 participants, 48 percent were men, at the World Senior Games in St. Georges, Utah, that were 50 years old and older, with an average age of 68.

Dr. Eze-Nliam said it is important to note more research is needed, and individual patients should always check with their healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.