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Message to older adults: embrace, don't fear the effects of sensible exercise

A Johns Hopkins study should ease the concerns held by many older adults with mild high blood pressure about the strain or harm exercise could cause their hearts. Results of the research on 104 men and women age 55 to 75 showed that a moderate program of physical exertion had no ill effects on the heart's ability to pump blood nor does it produce a harmful increase in heart size.

In this study, "moderate" translated to sustained exercise for about an hour, three times a week. Researchers say that people's concerns stem from the fact that during each workout, blood pressure can on average rise from 40 millimeters to 60 millimeters of mercury. The Hopkins study is believed to be the first to evaluate the effects of exercise on the heart's ability to function, to pump and to fill up with blood.

"While having high blood pressure at rest is a well-established risk factor for heart problems, older people should not fear the effects of moderate exercise on the heart, despite short-term bump-ups in blood pressure during their workout," says lead study investigator and exercise physiologist Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., a professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute. "Exercise is a highly effective means of increasing the heart's efficiency and reducing body fat, factors that may ward off future health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes."

A report on the Hopkins study, published in the July issue of the journal Heart, showed that after six months of aerobic exercise on a treadmill, bicycle or stepper, plus weightlifting, participants showed no overall ill effects in 11 measures of diastolic heart function, when the organ's main chamber fills with blood between beats. They also found that exercise produced no increase in eight measures of heart size, including left ventricular mass and wall thickness. In contrast, a long-ter
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
27-Jul-2006


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