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Just 30 minutes exercise a day could reduce deaths from heart disease


Currently around one in five menopausal women die from heart disease. But according to new research by exercise scientists at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), this shocking statistic could be reversed if women took just 30 minutes exercise, five days a week. The findings are based on the initial results of a 12-month study of 24 60-year-old postmenopausal women.

Professor Tim Cable, Director of LJMU’s School of Sports and Exercise Sciences explained: “In the same way that we need to think about a pension plan, women need to need to invest in their health and fitness now to ensure a real quality of life in later years. 2005 could be the time to start this action plan.”

The study was designed so that the scientists could assess the effects of well-defined aerobic exercise on the women’s cardiovascular system. No other research project has looked at so many different aspects at the same time – from changes in body composition to the performance of the heart and the supply of blood to the muscles and skin of the arms and legs.

Before starting the exercise programme, each of the women volunteers had their bone density measured along with the amount of muscle and fat in their bodies. Next their physical fitness, blood pressure and heart pumping capacity were measured while they were exercising on a treadmill.

An ultrasound technique – Echocardiography – was used to measure the size of the chambers and the thickness of the muscular walls of the heart. Then the movement of blood through the large elastic arteries into the smaller blood vessels found in the muscles and skin of the limbs was monitored.

Dr Keith George, Reader in Cardiovascular Physiology, said: “The volunteers have been terrific, with their enthusiasm and commitment to complete the programme and get themselves much fitter. Most of the ladies have not undertaken any significant exercise since leaving school some 45 years earlier and it would have been so easy for them to give up because of insufficient time or other pressing commitments.”

This series of tests was repeated every three months to determine the impact of the exercise programme and to determine which part of the body was benefiting most. The exercise sessions involved walking and cycling to meet individually established heart rate targets for 30 min a day, 5 days a week. The initial level of exercise was set deliberately low to avoid any injuries before being built up in controlled stages as the study progressed to challenge their bodies.

A very clear sequence of beneficial changes quickly became apparent as the exercise programme went on. After only a short time the women felt mentally and physically much better and this improved sense of well-being was backed up by increases in their measured levels of fitness.

Professor Tim Cable explained: “Although we expected to find improvements in blood flow to the limbs before changes developed in the heart, we were extremely surprised to find how little exercise was required to improve the flow of blood to the muscles and skin of the arms.”

With 2 months left in the research programme, Professor Cable predicts even greater benefits. “We expect to see improvements in the performance of the heart itself. Like most scientific research this study has raised as many questions as answers, and they will keep us busy in the future if we can obtain the right sponsorship.”

Professor Tim Cable | alfa
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