TUESDAY, Sept. 14, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Prolonged and sustained endurance training prevents stiffening of the heart, a condition associated with the onset of heart failure.
That's the finding of a new study to be published in the Sept. 28 edition of the journal Circulation.
The study also found that a sedentary lifestyle puts older people at risk of heart failure, the leading cause of hospitalizations for those older than 65 and a condition that affects eight of every 1,000 Americans older than 70.
Researchers compared the heart health of 12 healthy but sedentary seniors and 12 active seniors. Another 14 young but sedentary people were used as control subjects.
"We found that the older, sedentary individuals' hearts were 50 percent stiffer" than those of the athletic seniors, said senior author Dr. Benjamin Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
The doctors concluded that starting and sticking with an endurance-training program can play a major role in reversing the damage done to the heart. They noted that many of the active seniors in the study were not elite athletes when they were younger, and most did not start training until they were in their 30s.
The National Institutes of Health has more about heart problems.