Regular exercise is good for your heart. I dare say there’s not a soul alive who hasn’t heard that one before.
But unfortunately, some people still don’t know that regular exercise is good for everyone’s heart—at any age, in any physical or psychological condition.
The good news is, a team of French researchers recently set out to settle the matter once and for all. And their conclusions? Well, they’re nothing short of life-saving.
The frailest patients see the biggest gains
Researchers looked at how exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation affected the physical and psychological health of heart disease patients across a wide range of ages.
They followed more than 700 patients, all of whom participated in a 25-session cardiac rehabilitation program in Dijon, France between 2015 and 2017. They divided the patients into three groups: under 65 years old, between 65 and 80, and 80 years or older. They also looked at psychological factors, in addition to physical health scores.
In the end, all of the patients benefited from rehabilitation—finishing with both greater exercise capacity and lower rates of anxiety and depression.
It’s worth noting, too, that the patients who started cardiac rehabilitation in the worst physical shape reaped the greatest benefits from exercise training, regardless of age. Plus, very anxious younger patients—that is, those under 65—saw particularly big gains. As did depressed patients older than 65.
In the end, all of these factors go a long way toward maintaining both quality of life and physical independence after a heart disease diagnosis.
You’re never too old to start exercising
None of these results are surprising to me. But the fact is, older heart disease patients who are eligible for exercise rehab still receive much lower rates of referral to these types of programs.
And clearly, that needs to change. Because regular exercise isn’t just safe for the oldest, frailest patients. It’s absolutely essential.
In fact, elderly patients are at the highest risk of going downhill fast in the wake of a cardiovascular event like a heart attack. Partly because, on the whole, they’re less fit than their younger peers to begin with. (Yet another reason why regular exercise can be life-saving.)
But like I always tell you, you’re never too old to start turning things around. And now, that’s a scientifically proven fact. All it takes is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly—which breaks down to just about 20 minutes each day.
exercise weekly—which breaks down to just about 20 minutes each day.
Deley G, et al. “Physical and Psychological Effectiveness of Cardiac Rehabilitation: Age Is Not a Limiting Factor!” Can J Cardiol. 2019 Oct;35(10):1353-1358.