We all know that exercise is good for you, but in a 2001 issue of a highly respected medical publication, Circulation, researchers reported the results of follow up study that presented even more proof to that effect.
In the Sept. 18th issue, researchers published the findings of a study that actually began 30 years earlier. In 1966 five healthy men participated in a study where they were confined to complete bed rest for 20 days. After the 20 days were up, each man’s cardiovascular health was compared to his level prior to the bed rest. As researchers expected, each man’s cardiovascular health showed a significant decline. The men then participated in an eight week long cardiovascular fitness routine, and each man regained and even surpassed the fitness levels that they had prior to the bed rest.
The same group of men, now between the ages of 50 and 51, were located and underwent an assessment of their cardiovascular fitness. The cardiovascular capacity of each of the men had declines, as can be expected with age. One conclusion that was reached, is that the effects of being bedridden for 3 weeks at age 20, more profoundly impacted the physical work capacity of the men, than 30 years of aging.
The five middle aged men then participated in a program of structured endurance training for a period of six months. At the end of a six month period, all five men were exercising 4 to 5 times per week, adding up to around 4 ½ hours of total workout time. They wore heart rate monitors so that they could adjust the intensity of their workout to reach their target heart rate, and researchers used the information taken from these monitors to study their progress.
The researchers noted that the men did not reach the same level of cardiovascular capacity that the reached when tested at age 20. They did, however, lose an average of about 9 pounds, and their blood pressures, which averaged 140/88 at the beginning, to 132/84.
It was acknowledged that this was a small study and used no control group, so the conclusions reached can’t be generalized. It does however, provide added proof, that exercise can improve functional capacity at any age, and can be beneficial in the management of cardiovascular risk factors.