Exercise 'Cuts Older Heart Risks'
Even moderate exercise by older people cuts the
risk of developing a syndrome which increases heart disease and
diabetes risk, US researchers say.
The Johns Hopkins University team said cutting
body fat can offset metabolic syndrome in those aged 55 to 75.
The Journal of Preventive Medicine said 100 over-55s
were prescribed exercises ranging from weightlifting to walking.
Lead researcher Kerry Stewart said: "Exercise can
be as effective as what is accomplished today with drugs."
The study provides more evidence of the benefits
of exercise to the middle-aged and elderly.
Up to a quarter of adults in the UK are estimated
to have one or more of the risk factors for developing metabolic
In the US study, a group of more than 100 people
aged 55 to 75 were monitored for a period of six months.
None had shown any previous signs of cardiovascular
disease, apart from slightly raised blood pressure.
Half the participants took part in exercise sessions
for an hour three times a week, including aerobic exercise and weightlifting.
The rest were given a booklet that encouraged increased
activity, such as walking, to promote good health.
The researchers found that, as might be expected, if middle-aged people
stuck to an exercise programme, it improved overall fitness.
The metabolic syndrome is
essentially the preence of a number of factors including:
Excessive fat tissue
in and around the abdomen
High levels of unhealthy
cholesterol in the blood
Raised blood pressure
An inability to use sugar
in the blood properly
But the reduction in the number of cases of metabolic
syndrome was linked more strongly to reductions in total and abdominal
body fat and increases in muscle leanness, rather than improved
At the beginning of the study, 43% of all participants
had the metabolic syndrome.
By the end of the study, there were no new cases
of metabolic syndrome in the exercise group, and the condition had
resolved in nine of them, a reduction of 41%.
In the control group, eight participants no longer
had the syndrome, while four new cases appeared, resulting in an
overall reduction of 18%.
Kerry Stewart, professor of medicine and director
of clinical exercise physiology and heart health programs at The
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute,
said: "Older people are very prone to have the metabolic syndrome.
"While each component of metabolic syndrome increases
disease risk by itself, when combined, they represent an even greater
risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke."
He added: "Older people can benefit greatly from
exercise, especially to reduce their risk for developing metabolic
"Our results show that this population can be motivated
to follow through with a moderate exercise programme, and for some
risk factors, such as abdominal fat, exercise can be as effective
as what is accomplished today with drugs."
Professor Stewart said: "Because so many older
persons have or are at risk for metabolic syndrome, this study provides
a very strong reason for individuals to increase their physical
"They will reduce their fatness, and increase their
fitness and leanness, while reducing their risk for heart disease
Reference Source 108