Exercise can improve arterial function, aerobic capacity and induce left-ventricular remodelling in people over 65 but it does not reverse the cardiac stiffening effect of years of sedentary behaviour, a new study suggests.
Writing in Circulation (2010;122:1797-1805), the authors explain that the left-ventricular compliance of older people who have exercised intensely for most of their adult lives is indistinguishable from that of healthy younger people, suggesting physical activity plays a critical role in maintaining cardiovascular health. But it is not known whether exercise later in life can reverse this stiffening process. They therefore compared 12 months of regular endurance training in 12 previously sedentary people over 65 with that of 12 similar aged athletes.
They found that such exercise improved function but had no effect on the structure of the heart. They conclude that in persons over 65 it may be too late to reverse the stiffening effects of sedentary ageing.