The new year has begun: have you started your new healthy lifestyle yet?
Indeed, healthy living is among the most promised resolutions ever January 1. And, of course, it is among the first promises we break, as well, sometimes after great effort. Maybe what we really need is just a little extra motivation to stick with it.
Well, a new study, published in the journal Circulation, says that it is never too late to start exercising, but you just have to do it for a long enough period. And just how long is this “period” of enough?
It turns out, two years of consistent, aerobic exercise can have a seriously big impact on health for someone who was previously sedentary in middle age. The researchers even argue that this effort could be nearly as good for pulmonary agility as being a professional athlete.
Obviously, researchers knew that exercising four to five times a week, consistently, is enough to keep your heart healthy. But this new study provides more evidence that even someone who has not been very active—if at all—for decades can even significantly improve heart health.
Essentially, says lead author Benjamin Levine, “The ‘sweet spot’ in life to get off the couch and start exercising is in late-middle age, when the heart still has plasticity.”
The existing research explores how sitting all day long can contribute to the buildup of proteins called troponins, something that the heart muscle releases when damaged. As a matter of fact, doctors look specifically for elevated troponin levels in the blood when diagnosing a heart attack.
For the study, the researchers assigned participants a type of high-intensity exercise but then encouraged them to try different routines or workouts. First of all, this helps to keep it fresh so people remain motivated to follow through. Secondly, though, this can help to demonstrate if any type of exercise has more powerful effects than others. Sure enough, the group assigned to do yoga and stretching exercises did not get enough aerobic exercise as other groups (who may have done running, swimming, etc).
Another important note about this study: the researchers also warn that after the age of 65 it might be a little too late to reverse any effects of a sedentary lifestyle.