According to new research, exercising four to five times a week is vital if you want to keep your heart and arteries feeling young.
Any form of exercise reduces the risk of heart problems, but a recent study has found that working out two to three times a week only keeps some arteries healthy.
The research studied 102 people in their 60’s, and found that exercising more is necessary to stop your main arteries from stiffening up.
Arteries are blood vessels which transport blood in and out of the heart, and as people age, they are prone to stiffening and can become blocked. The larger arteries supply blood to the chest and abdomen.
The study, which was published in The Journal of Physiology, looked closely at the exercise habits of the participants throughout their lives and also measured the stiffness of their arteries.
Patients were put into four categories judging by how much exercise they had done. Categories ranged from sedentary (fewer than twice a week) to master athletes (six to seven times per week). One exercise session was at least 30 minutes.
The US researchers found that people who exercised four to five times per week – roughly the amount recommended by NHS guidelines – had healthier large central arteries as well as healthier middle-sized ones.
Lead author Dr Benjamin Levine said: “This work is really exciting because it enables us to develop exercise programmes to keep the heart youthful and even turn back time on older hearts and blood vessels.”
However, he stressed that individuals shouldn’t wait until later in life to introduce exercise into their daily routine.
“Previous work by our group has shown that waiting until 70 is too late to reverse a heart’s ageing, as it is difficult to change cardiovascular structure even with a year of training,” he explained.
“Our current work is focussing on two years of training in middle aged men and women, with and without risk factors for heart diseases, to see if we can reverse the ageing of a heart and blood vessels by using the right amount of exercise at the right time.’
The research, which was carried out at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas, Texas, however did not account for factors such as people’s diet, social background and education.
Words by Kirsty McCormack