Study Finds Brief Physical Activity After 70 Can Ward off Heart Disease

It’s high time that you make physical fitness a top priority. 

Just 20 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous workouts in 70- to 75-year-olds could fend off heart disease and heart failure in adults over 80, a study suggests. 

Countless seniors want to know how to avoid heart disease. 

Despite the profound benefits of leading an active lifestyle, 28% (31 million) Americans over 50 prefer to spend their time sitting around the house. 

The question is, how to prevent heart problems? Can heart disease be prevented? 

To keep your heart health in tip-top shape, it’s important that you use exercise to its full potential. 

Keep reading to learn why physical activity is so important in preventing heart disease.

Here is what makes workouts for seniors a key aspect in warding off heart problems, including some additional practical information that can help.

What Is Heart Disease?

To know how to prevent heart disease, it’s important to start with the basics. The heart and its blood vessels make up the entire cardiovascular system. 

A range of different problems can happen within the cardiovascular system, such as abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), rheumatic heart disease, blood vessel disease, etc. 

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, covers an array of disorders. This includes diseases of the vascular system, cardiac muscle, brain, and other important organs. 

The risk of heart disease increases in a person with high cholesterol, unstable blood pressure, unhealthy diet, obesity, and lack of physical activity. 


Why Is Physical Activity So Important in Preventing Heart Disease?

Does exercise prevent heart disease? There is an intricate connection between exercise and heart disease. 

The heart requires physical activity just as any other muscle does. Frequently used muscles become healthier and stronger, but muscles that don’t get used tend to weaken. 

When you exercise, the heart can pump more blood through the system and continues to function properly with little strain. 

With regular workouts, the blood vessels and arteries remain flexible. Thus, boosting circulation and adequate blood pressure. 

According to experts, the lack of physical activity leads to 6% of coronary heart disease occurrences around the globe. And leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and more. 

Plus, sitting too much for prolonged periods of time can decrease your mobility and flexibility. These can all have a profound impact as you age. 

To know how to help heart disease, it’s best to leave the sedentary lifestyle behind and start preventing heart disease with physical activity. 

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Study Finds Brief Exercise After 70 Can Ward off Heart Disease 

Better to do something late than not to do it at all. It’s no secret that regular exercise to prevent heart disease can curb the risk of heart ailments. But, very few studies have strictly looked at whether physical activity in seniors can help fend off stroke and heart ailments. 

The method

To get a better perspective, researchers studied 3,099 Italians over 65. Brief assessments helped evaluate the patient’s medical history and blood state. 

At the beginning of the study, female patients had higher odds of experiencing four or more coexisting conditions. That included a higher prevalence of chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis. 

In comparison, diabetes and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) were more prevalent among male patients. 

Subjects focused on doing regular workouts that they enjoyed. 

There isn’t a single best exercise for heart disease that works for everyone. It’s about finding the activity that suits your needs. 

Moderate physical activity included fishing, bowls, and walking. Vigorous exercises included swimming, dancing, going to the gym, gardening, and cycling. 

Individuals who exercised up to 20 minutes or more a day were considered active. Those who managed to do less than that were seen as inactive. 

The findings

Women were less likely to be physically active than men. Based on the results, patterns of stable-high physical activity had a 52% lower risk of heart disease among men than those with stable-low patterns. 

Heart attack prevention starts early. The biggest advantages seemed to develop at the age of 70. 

The risk was slightly lower at 75 and no lower at the age of 80 to 85. In other words, improving your fitness sooner at an older age could be most beneficial. 

So, does walking strengthen your heart? The most impressive reduction in heart failure and cardiovascular disease was linked to 20 to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous workouts a day. Although these results were most profound in men, women can also reap the benefits. 

Experts suggest that to achieve the biggest and most impactful cardiovascular benefits, people should incorporate at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous workouts a day. 

The more you improve your fitness, the bigger the odds of curbing blood clot formation and improving arterial blood flow. This is why physical activity is so important, and it can make exercise a vital component in heart disease prevention. 

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How Does Physical Activity Prevent Heart Disease?

There is a common misconception that all seniors are physically weak and frail. Many people think that the human body doesn’t need as much exercise as it did during its prime. 

Exercise is considered dangerous. While doing a leisure activity is considered safer. 

This is why older adults tend to refrain from working on their bodies. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. So, how to prevent cardiovascular disease? 

Seniors can use physical activity to: 

  • Control their reductions in body weight
  • Manage blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
  • Build healthy joints, muscles, and bones
  • Amplify blood flow
  • Promote better psychological well-being

There are many ways to prevent heart disease. Obesity and overweight are considered serious risk factors for heart complications, explains the American Heart Association. 

Working on your fitness routine can provide ample opportunity for cardiovascular disease prevention and weight management. 

So, how does exercise prevent heart disease? Exercise curbs the blood pressure in people with hypertension. It also delays the onset of increased blood pressure. 

Like aerobic workouts, targeted exercises strengthen the muscles across the body and offer good heart protection. 

Being physically active helps the body stabilize blood cholesterol. This, in turn, can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. 

Plus, mental health and heart disease go hand-in-hand. Depression can be a big risk factor for heart disease as unstable blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and smoking habits. Curbing your mental unrest can protect the heart. 

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Can You Reverse Heart Disease With Exercise?

People in late middle age can curb or reverse the risk of heart failure stemming from years of a sedentary lifestyle. 

What you need is to incorporate daily exercise into your routine. But, it will take some effort. You will need roughly 2 years of aerobic physical activity, 4 to 5 days a week, in order to reap the results. 

Want to know how to prevent heart disease naturally? What you also eat matters. The food you consume can affect almost every aspect of your cardiovascular health, from inflammation to blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

Ideally, you should be opting for heart-healthy foods. Predominantly, leafy greens, whole grains, fatty fish, berries, etc. When you pair a healthy diet with exercise, you can give the body that health boost it so desperately needs.

Best Exercises for the Heart

How can heart disease be prevented if I can’t exercise as I did back in the day? This question often pops up among older adults who don’t believe they have the same amount of stamina, vigor, and energy as in their youth. 

When you think about exercise, it doesn’t mean you must hit the gym. Ideally, you should choose activities that you find interesting. Something that doesn’t feel like a chore and you can use as a daily routine. 

You can opt for heart-pumping physical activities that make you feel comfortable, such as:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Stretching
  • Strength training

If you can’t find the motivation to start, then it can be a good idea to find a companion. Exercising with friends can be a lot more fulfilling, and you will enjoy the social interaction. Start slow and focus on making gradual improvements. 

Take note of your progress and check your pulse to ensure that you are not overdoing it. Older adults are advised to wear safety gear and adequate clothing in case of trips and falls. And don’t forget to hydrate. Drink plenty of water no matter how long you exercise. 

Tip: If a chronic illness, like advanced heart disease, severe osteoporosis, or arthritis limits your choice of exercises, then talk to a specialist. A physiotherapist can help create a fitness program tailored to your needs. 


Can Exercise Make a Heart Condition Worse?

In most cases, light-to-moderate intensity workouts won’t aggravate your condition. In fact, the health risks associated with sedentary activities outweigh the risks of being physically active. 

Most seniors can start a moderate physical activity program, like walking, without the need for medical evaluation. 

However, those with heart disease or who recently had a major heart problem, like heart surgery, will need to talk to a doctor before trying any moderate exercise program. 

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

The CDC suggests a minimum of 30 min a day, 5 days a week, of moderate workouts. Like brisk walking, for instance. 

Whereas if you are doing more intensive activities, like running or hiking, then 75 minutes a week is enough. But don’t feel overwhelmed if you can’t handle it. 

With the recent study we discussed above, at least 20 minutes of exercise can come in handy. You should start stretching and working on your foot balance. 

Balancing activities can make for worthwhile exercises. They can help you reduce the odds of trips and falls, which is critical for elderly adults. 


Many factors can play a role in your heart health. As you can see, you can’t look for the single best way to prevent heart disease. 

Physical activity and heart disease are interconnected, which is why exercise is so important in preventing heart disease. Finding ways to keep the circulatory system healthy can give the heart that necessary health boost. 

But, opting for quality food can also offer the health benefits you are looking for. Now that you know some practical heart disease prevention tips, you can keep your heart health on the right track.

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  1. Gaziano T, Reddy KS, Paccaud F, et al. Cardiovascular Disease. In: Jamison DT, Breman JG, Measham AR, et al., editors. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; 2006.
  2. Tian D, Meng J. Exercise for Prevention and Relief of Cardiovascular Disease: Prognoses, Mechanisms, and Approaches. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2019.
  3. Barbiellini Amidei C, Trevisan C, Dotto M, Ferroni E, Noale M, Maggi S, Corti MC, Baggio G, Fedeli U, Sergi G. Association of physical activity trajectories with major cardiovascular diseases in elderly people. Heart. 2022. 

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