Monday, November 3, 2014

Exercise as the Best Medicine

Sports cardiology researchers from Texas Presbyterian Hospital recently published their new study in the journal Circulation.

They wanted to demonstrate that cardiac adaptation to regular exercise is based on the training load, not just genetics. They enrolled 12 sedentary human volunteers in a 1-year training program. All participants underwent supervised training, frequent MRI scans, and even cardiac catheterization at the beginning and end of the study.

The endurance training began with exercising 30 to 45 minutes three to four times per week by brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Then, after a couple of months of base training, exercise intensity and duration was gradually increased. After 9 months, a long run was added to a steady dose of interval training. At the end of the study, average exercise time per week was 7 to 9 hours.

The results were striking. The right and left ventricles of all participants underwent structural changes seen in elite-level athletes. RV mass and volume increased significantly and immediately. Months later, when more intense intervals were introduced, the researchers observed the same eccentric hypertrophy in the LV. VO2max surged by an average of 20%. Cardiac compliance, diastolic volume at a given pressure, increased significantly – but nowhere near as much as elite athletes.

At the end of the study, all the previously sedentary subjects completed their endurance goals: a marathon for 10 of them, an Olympic-distance triathlon for one and a cycling “century” (100 miles) for one.

There is no drug and no surgical procedure that can match these results. If there were, it would be all over the news. This study has garnished little fan-fare.

I had always thought that significant heart muscle improvement required a lifetime of endurance exercise. This study shows that it’s never to late to start and that the benefits are almost immediate. They were able to measure some of these improvements within 3 months.

My family has a very strong history of cardiac disease. My father died of a massage heart attack at the age of 47. My mother had her first heart attack at 37 years of age. My older brother has had a quadruple bypass and my younger brother has a cardiac stint. Both of them take a host of cardiac medication.

At the age of 62, I have avoided that “genetic fate”. Diet and nutrition have been big factors. However, endurance exercise is most important factor in cardiac health. My cardiac evaluation shows all the adaptations found in this study. I have run a marathon, competed in triathlons, and have cycled many “century” rides. I swim, lift weight, cycle, and run. Exercising for 7-9 hours a week seems like a lot, but it isn’t if you have variety. My favorite activity is tennis. I only play once a week for an hour and a half but all the other activities keep me in shape for tennis.

Setting goals has been my key to long term endurance exercise. I began by training for 10K races. That eventually grew to train for a marathon. Then I switched to triathlons. The addition of swimming and cycling added the variety that just running lacked and both are much easier on the musculoskeletal system. For the past five years, I have concentrated more on cycling long distance for charity rides.

Next week my wife and I will cycle 165 miles from Miami to Key West over the course of two days. We join over 400 other riders, raising over 1 million dollars for the SmartRide. This organization funds direct support for patients with HIV/Aids in the state of Florida. It’s a great cause and well worth all the effort. As a bonus, I am also supporting my own health.

Set a goal to participate in a charity event – a 5 or 10K, a triathlon, or cycling event. You will help others, feel good about yourself, and improve your health in the process.

Source: Medscape -October 27, 2014

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