Exercising in midlife protects heart, says research

Man gardening Gardening counts as moderate exercise

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Making sure you get enough exercise in midlife will help protect your heart, according to research.

Even those who make the switch in their late 40s and 50s can still benefit, the study of over 4,000 people suggests.

And it need not be hard toil in a gym - gardening and brisk walks count towards the required 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week, say experts.

But more work is needed since the study looked at markers linked to heart problems and not heart disease itself.

And it relied on people accurately reporting how much exercise they did - something people tend to overestimate rather than underestimate.

Start Quote

This research highlights the positive impact changing your exercise habits can have on the future of your heart health ”

End Quote Maureen Talbot British Heart Foundation

In the study, which is published in the journal Circulation, people who did the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise a week had the lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood.

Inflammatory markers are important, say experts, because high levels have been linked to increased heart risk.

'Get active'

People who said they consistently stuck to the recommended amount of exercise for the entire 10-year study had the lowest inflammatory levels overall.

But even those who said they only started doing the recommended amount of exercise when they were well into their 40s saw an improvement and had lower levels of inflammation than people who said they never did enough exercise.

UK exercise recommendations

  • Under-fives (once walking independently): three hours every day
  • Five to 18-year-olds: at least an hour a day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, plus muscle strengthening activities three times a week
  • Adults (including over 65s): 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, plus muscle strengthening activities twice a week

The findings were unchanged when the researchers took into consideration other factors, such as obesity and smoking, that could have influenced the results in the group of UK civil servants who were included in the study.

Dr Mark Hamer, of University College London, who led the research, said: "We should be encouraging more people to get active - for example, walking instead of taking the bus. You can gain health benefits from moderate activity at any time in your life."

Maureen Talbot of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the work, said: "Donning your gardening gloves or picking up a paint brush can still go a long way to help look after your heart health, as exercise can have a big impact on how well your heart ages.

"This research highlights the positive impact changing your exercise habits can have on the future of your heart health - and that it's never too late to re-energise your life.

"However it's important not to wait until you retire to get off the couch, as being active for life is a great way to keep your heart healthy."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I worry sometimes why some researchers just regurgitate information we already have been told for the past 20yrs or so, just like eating 5 a day, actually gets me this on is why not 4 or 6 a day!

    Excersise/diet is great advice but not new.

    @12.William Hall
    Why should the NHS pay, excersise is free and local communities could form there own groups, only needs a few neighbours and friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    What are your scientists doing in the UK ? Everyday without exception there is some obvious or rubbish study presented. Get on you scientists and do some research that is important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Got to be life style change. For the last 4 years I've changed to a low fat diet, more fruit, veg and swim 4 times a week. The weight has fallen off me, gone from 38 waist to 33. Better shape now that I've ever been, and I feel better for it. Resting pulse around 51 beats per minute, blood pressure is spot on. Oh yeah, and my hair is growing back on my bald head! Don't wait for the bypass surgery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    To be active is good for all age.Don't seat for longer time.Just move and do some thing.It could be house work,shopping or walking.Also don't overeat..

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Billions is spent on 'diet products' (they want your money) - it's a health delusion. Health and fitness is down to the individual making the choice - you won't find health in a diet shake, pill or vibrating abdominal belt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Its not just exerce, its 60% what you eat and how much you eat. The time of meals is also important. American s constantly complain they don t have enough money, yet they are the fattest people in the world.They should live from vegtables, fruit and water for a few years. They could save a fortune on food and also a fortune on medical needs. How come they aren t smarter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    With the amount of housework my wife gets me doing I'll live for ever unfortunately !

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.


    Whilst cost is a contributing factor, it is far more to do with attitude. Too many people these days are simply lazy in all aspects of life, as convenience and apathy dominate.

    The diet needs to be balanced, but exercise also need to be present - it should never get to weighwatchers stages. How much does it cost to do situps, burpess, squats etc in your room or put some shoes on and go run?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.


    You are right. You don't get unfit because of old age - you get unfit through neglet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Yes well I'm just off down to the pub to get one of my five a day !

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The point of the article is that exercise/fitness is good for older people. Many think that they are 'too old' to bother. Another common misconception is that we have to 'go on a diet' or go to the gym. Or, at least, pay a gym subscription, buy the fancy clothes.

    Me? I'm nearly 70, BMI=25, often run 5-8 miles. Loving life. Eat great food from my veggie plot. Cost of good health can be zero.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Just stay reasonably active and don't become a couch potato

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    William Hall

    It's down to the individual. Fitness is free, you don't need weightwatchers, you don't even need training shoes and it can be done anywhere at anytime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I have never really understood why people drive a 5 mile round trip to a gym just to go on a running machine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    If obesity is such a BIG problem and the country wants to save money in the long run then why does the NHS prescribe Weightwatchers or similar?
    Many people especially retired; unemployed; low income etc cannot afford to pay for this and it seems to work if done in a group.
    There's another solution - no charge!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Sorry but the people who need to read this won't read it, they'll ignore it. Always have done, always will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Well that neatly and timely puts a big nail in the coffin of the sports obsessives. No need for it. Do not go pounding your knees to pieces constantly jogging or in silly gyms. Just ordinary life activities, walk briskly not saunter, use the stairs more not lifts, bit of gardening, sorts or things. 'Olympic' efforts are not needed. End sport funding give it to gardeners!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    people are right this is not new, part of the job of science is to redo whats been done before, again & again, in case it was wrong or has changed, just because a paper is published it doesn't mean its new or news. specialists read them, mentally note them, with whatever caveats are included, as another interesting or not so interesting confirmation of what they knew & move on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Obviously... as every previous contributor has said.

    Is it the research that is so simplistic, I wonder, or is it the BBC's presentation that makes it appear this way? Anything remotely scientific, i.e. involving figures, formulas or statistics, is too difficult for the BBC's audience to understand, it seems, unless it is simplified to such an extent that it becomes trivial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I agree. It's not news. But maybe it should be stressed in a different way - much like the warnings on ciggie packs.


    There you are. Sorted. No need to thank me.


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