A new study shows that fitness training programs in middle age improve heart health. This is the finding of a study of participants from the Dallas Heart Study, as well as employees at Texas Health Resources and the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center. Poor fitness in middle age is a well-known risk factor for heart failure.


If you’ve been sedentary and think fitness training programs don’t work in middle age, this in-depth two year study proves you wrong.


Research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation finds that starting fitness training programs in middle age can work to reverse the heart damage that comes from sitting for long periods of time. You may have to work a little harder than current minimal recommendations suggest, but if you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s, fitness training programs will significantly improve your heart health.



The Research Study on the Effects of Fitness Training Programs


Here is how the research on the effectiveness of fitness training programs in middle age was conducted:


• The researchers studied 52 middle-aged adults (45-64) who had led sedentary lives but were otherwise healthy.

• They split them into two groups: the “committed exercise” and the “casual exercise” group.

• The “committed exercise” group did moderate and high-intensity exercises as well as resistance training four-five days per week.

• For instance, the committed exerciser group engaged in a “four-by-four” interval training session per week, which consisted of four minutes of high-intensity exercise followed by moderate-activity recovery periods. Each routine was tailored to the individual’s health when they started, and they all worked up to their eventual maximum over several months.

• The casual” exercise group did balance and flexibility training two-three days per week.



The Result of the Study on the Effects of Fitness Training Programs



The results of the study on the effects of fitness training programs are as follows:

• The health of the participants’ hearts was measured throughout the two-year study period.

• The results of the committed group and the causal group were compared.

• The study determined that the committed exercisers showed significant changes from working out four to five times per week for two years.

• The committed exercisers increased their VO2 max, the amount of oxygen the body uses during exercise, by 18%.

• The stiffness of the heart muscle also decreased in the committed exercisers group.

• The same changes weren’t seen in the casual exercise group.



The authors urge people to make exercise a part of their regular schedule. Even if you’ve been sedentary for many years, it’s not too late to reverse it. The study is generally in line with the current exercise recommendations of 150 minutes/week, but adds the bout of more vigorous activity once a week, which may provide a lot of benefit.


Mixing it up to keep it interesting, and to keep doing exercise, is key. “By varying the duration, intensity, and type of training over the course of the week, the training was not onerous and was feasible with excellent adherence to prescribed sessions,” according to the researchers.


The study is encouraging since it shows that starting fitness training programs relatively late in life can benefit the heart and even reverse the damage that comes from years of sitting. Being sedentary is a known risk factor for heart disease and for early mortality. This risk can be diminished significantly by fitness training programs started in middle age.



Comments from Study Author about Fitness Training Programs in Middle Age



Dr. Benjamin Levine, Director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Resources made the following comments about fitness training programs started later in life.

• “We found that exercising only two or three times a week didn’t do much to protect the heart against aging.”

• “But committed exercise four to five times a week was almost as effective at preventing sedentary heart aging as the more extreme exercise of elite athletes.”

• “This study demonstrates that prolonged (two years) exercise training, initiated in middle age, can forestall the deleterious effects of sedentary aging by reducing cardiac stiffness and increasing fitness.”


Click here to read the full article about the benefits of fitness training programs for heart health in middle age.