Can a healthier heart for cardiac patients be just a pedal away?
A new study shows that contrary to previous belief, even elderly heart patients can benefit from regular exercise.
“Many physicians – and insurance companies – still believe that cardiac rehabilitation does not really help in old age. This study clearly falsifies this belief,” said Dr. Stephan Gielen, Deputy Director of Cardiology at the University Hospital, Martin-Luther-University of Halle, Germany.
How Was The Study Conducted?
Gielen and his team recruited 60 heart-failure patients and 60 healthy volunteers. Half of the group was 55 years and younger, while the other half was 65 years and older. Half of the group underwent four weeks of supervised aerobic training, while the other half did not exercise.
The exercised group underwent 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day, for five days a week in addition to one 60 minute group exercise session. The results showed that the heart-failure patients 55 and under increased their peak oxygen uptake by 25%, while the older group increased their peak oxygen uptake by 27%.
The findings of this study indicate that exercise is therapeutic even for elderly heart failure patients when it comes to reducing muscle breakdown and wasting associated with heart failure.
“What surprised us was the speed of onset of these effects,” says Gielen. “We believed that with a short term program of four weeks, the effects would be much more limited. But it was surprising for us that we got nearly all the effects of exercise training after just four weeks. So this is a very rapid system, and even at advanced ages, there is a high plasticity of the muscle system.”
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