Starting an Exercise Program in Later Life: The Potential Benefits for Your Heart

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As you get older, your motivation to start (and maintain) an exercise program may be on the decline. You probably know the heart naturally becomes less efficient as you age, even if you’re healthy, so if you’re already living a sedentary lifestyle, you might feel like it’s just not worth changing your habits and committing to an exercise program to support the health of your heart — since your efforts might be futile anyway.

However, a new study in the journal Circulation, a publication of American Heart Association, suggests that starting an aerobic exercise program in later life might be worthwhile after all. In this article, a research group at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center reported that it could reverse the cardiac effects of aging and help prevent heart failure — even if you have never consistently exercised before. Read on to learn more about the the study, what it means for you, and how you can beat some of the most common excuses that hold middle-aged adults back from engaging in regular aerobic activity.

Understanding the Study: How Exercise Can Improve Cardiovascular Health in Middle-Aged Adults

One of the things that made this study stand out was the fact that it was a long-term, randomized, controlled trial — so it met the highest standards of evidence for a clinical experiment. The researchers at UT Southwestern recruited 53 volunteers between the ages of 45 and 64 who lived sedentary lives, but otherwise reported being in generally good health. The participants were randomly divided between two groups. The first group completed an non-aerobic exercise program three times a week (which included yoga, balance training, and weight training), an the other group did moderate- to high-intensity exercise at least four days a week — every week, for two years.

The improvements in heart health for the second group were remarkable. Normally, during the aging process, the flexibility of the heart declines, so it gets smaller and stiffer. However, the researchers found that the flexibility of the hearts of the patients in the second group actually increased — to the point where they resembled the hearts of sedentary adults between the ages of 30 and 35. Moreover, the patients’ hearts increased in efficiency, which means that they are able to pump more blood — reducing the patients’ risk of cardiac-efficiency-related problems in the future, such as heart failure.

In the end, the authors cited the moderate- to high-intensity aerobic interval training as the factor that made the biggest difference for getting the patients in shape and improving their heart health. Their results also demonstrated that it’s never too late to reduce your risk of heart problems by starting an exercise program.

Beating Common Excuses that Have Kept You Sedentary for Years

If you’re a healthy, middle-aged adult living a sedentary lifestyle, the implications of this study of for you are clear: If you want to protect your heart, it can really help to get off the couch and start an aerobic training program! However, after several decades of adulthood (which may include years of failed New Year’s Resolutions), you’re probably well-acquainted with all the familiar excuses that have kept you away from aerobic exercise in the past. Here are some solutions that may help you succeed when you try again this time:


  • Aerobic exercise makes me too sore.


There’s no doubt about it: Moderate- to high-intensity exercise can leave you with aches and pains, especially when you are starting a new program. This time, you may want to try getting a regular massage, which can help loosen up your muscles as you get used to your new routine. Plus, massage modalities like deep tissue massage can help improve cardiovascular health, so you can give your heart an extra boost!


  • I just don’t have enough energy for a regular workout.


In today’s busy world, you might already be feeling fatigued even before you adopt an exercise program. Sometimes, this may be a result of your nutritional choices. For instance, you may be missing key nutrients like B-vitamins, or you may be eating at times of day that interfere with your sleep. Finding a supplement or getting nutritional counseling from a professional like a chiropractor can help.


  • Whenever I try aerobic exercise, I get injured.


If walking, running, and other aerobic activities always end up giving you foot, leg, knee, hip, or even back pain, it may be because of problems with your stride, such as excessive pronation. If you get a customized insole, it can help reduce your risk of injury as you begin an exercise program.
No matter your age, health status, or fitness goal, Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness is here to help. Our services can help you start (and stick to!) an exercise program that supports the health of your heart and empowers you to achieve your other wellness goals. Contact us today for more information!

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