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And the loafers liked it, or at least most of them did.
"I feel younger every day," said Lisa Ashworth, a 55-year-old pharmacy specialist from Dallas who completed the trial and who says she's now committed to regular exercise.
Some were assigned to an exercise program that included moderate and high-intensity workouts, and some got weight training, balance work and yoga. Those who had worked out at least four days a week had healthier hearts and arteries, and were fitter as measured by oxygen uptake, the team reported in the journal Circulation.
Those who did the yoga and weight sessions did not become fitter.
“First, it has to be something they have access to, second it has to be something they enjoy and third it has to be alternating impact and low impact. They worked up gradually to get their hearts pumping and were told how to measure their exertion.
This included at least one long session a week of tennis, dancing or brisk walking; one high-intensity aerobic session that could be as short as 20-30 minutes; one or two weekly strength training sessions and two to three days of moderate intensity exercise such as a moderate walk.
She uses a rowing machine, cycles and jogs occasionally with her husband and her dog. It has to be part of your personal life." Also, the exercisers kept the pounds off, the researchers said. They found that people as old as 89 could tolerate an exercise regime that included walking, leg lifts and stretching.
So can people just slack off again after two years of regular workouts? They may have stayed frail, but improved in ways that can really make a difference, such as being able to get up out of a chair, and walk a few hundred feet.
“The result was a reversal of decades of a sedentary lifestyle on the heart for most of the study participants.” The intense workout was important, Levine said, even if it was just once a week.
“It breaks up the monotony of just the walking,” he said. You would think that they wouldn’t but they like the fact that it’s short and they like the fact that they feel stronger afterwards." Ashworth said it was hard at first.