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No help for women's heart capacity.

Older women's heart function--or pumping capacity--does not improve like that of older men after exercise training, according to investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine. They studied 10 sedentary, but healthy, females aged 60-70 for one year to learn whether their hearts, like those of their male counterparts, increase in size in response to endurance exercise such as walking or jogging. Physiological enlargement is one way the heart adapts to exercise training and improves its pumping capacity. After one year of 60-minute workouts four times a week, the women increased their aerobic exercise capacity level by 21%--similar to men their age--but their heart function did not improve.

"We know from previous studies in older men who underwent the same kind of training program these women that the heart adapts to training by improving its pumping action, which is normal response," notes Robert J. Spina, research assistant professor of medicine. "It came, as a complete surprise to us where we didn't see the same response in the women." The participants none of whom had exercised for at least three years, were healthy and had no significant risk factors for coronary heart disease such as family predisposition high cholesterol, diabetes, or hypertension.

The women prepared for the rigorous program by doing flexibility exercises the first three months. During the initial phase of the endurance training program, they exercised at 60% of their maximal heart rate (the highest that can be achieved during exercise). Over the last three months of training, they worked out at 80% of their maximal heart rate, which is considered vigorous exercise, including walking jogging, cycling, and some work on rowing machines.

As a result of the training, small blood vessels surrounding the women's muscles proliferated enabling the muscles to extract more oxygen from blood. The same response occurs in men, yet their hearts also adapt by growing larger and contracting more efficiently so they can pump more blood throughout the body Although Spina doesn't know why older women don't undergo the same cardiac adaptations as men, he says one possible explanation may be related to a sex hormone deficiency. "We see cardiac adaptations in younger women that we don't see in the older women."
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Title Annotation:research on exercise training
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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