How An Old Heart Gets Younger
Although your heart rate steadily declines over the decades, your heart function can remain high well into old age. This might seem miraculous, but your body has ways, if you give it a chance.
When you exercise consistently with intensity, your heart makes several adaptations to increase cardiac output and maintain your ability to meet challenging physical tasks in everyday life and in the gym. According to Joseph Signorile, PhD, in his book Bending the Aging Curve, here’s how it happens;
First, through exercise, the chamber of the heart out of which blood pumps increases in volume. Although the heart beats slower, it can increase output.
Second, the thickness of the heart wall increases, making it stronger and, like any muscle, capable of a harder contraction.
Finally, the heart muscle in the pumping chamber becomes more pliant. When the heart muscle can stretch, its pumping action is more productive.
What we think of as “cardio” includes other important non-heart factors, all of which are also improved through exercise. Exercise promotes optimum oxygenation of the blood in the lungs, stimulates development of red blood cells to carry the oxygen to the muscles, and increases the density of tiny blood vessels to deliver the oxygenated blood to the muscle cells.
Knowing all this, the question arises: What is the best exercise to improve and maintain cardio performance? Your unique medical conditions aside, all movement helps.
That said, an increasing body of research shows high-intensity interval training has clear benefits for people of all ages, including older adults. At CBF, we exercise at varying levels of intensity, including high-intensity for short periods of time. We’ll discuss why and how we do this in our next blog.
You’ll learn how to listen to your heart and safely pace your exercise without ever taking a pulse.