A New York Times article last year caught my eye with its summary: “For lifelong heart health, start exercising early in life and keep exercising often. But even if you have neglected to exercise and are now middle-aged, it is not too late.”
As the piece explains, “By the time many of us are in our mid to late 50s, portions of our heart muscle have begun to atrophy and weaken, and our major cardiac arteries — the blood vessels that move blood from our hearts and to the rest of the body — have stiffened. These changes increase blood pressure and make our hearts work harder and less well, raising the risk for subsequent health problems, including heart failure.”
The article tells of a study of a group of middle-aged people who had, until that time, led a sedentary lifestyle. One group began an exercise routine and continued it for two years. At the end of that time, “…the exercisers’ heart muscles were stronger and less stiff than at the start of the study. Their hearts, in effect, were more youthful now. These results suggest that our hearts can “retain plasticity” deep into middle age…meaning that they still can change in desirable ways if we exercise.”
I immediately thought about my dad. He didn’t start exercising until he was 59 years old.
He became an exerciser literally by accident. He had slipped on the ice that winter and badly broke his leg. After surgery to insert pins and plates to repair the leg, he embarked on a long journey of physical therapy.
When he finished rehab, he stuck with the exercise habits he had developed.
Now, almost exactly 25 years later, he continues his exercise routine, and has a health-profile that would be the envy of many people younger than his 84 years.
My dad was fortunate that the incident that propelled him into the world of exercise wasn’t a stroke or a heart attack or something else that came about partly as a result of his not exercising to that point.
Some people get the exercise wake-up call after one of those kinds of health incidents. Those who can recover from that are fortunate. For others, it may be too late.
Don’t wait until that happens!
Start now. Please.
What is your exercise routine? Please join the conversation with your comments…
All the best,