May 5th, 2014

Physical Activity Improves Heart Rate Variability In The Elderly

A new study in Circulation offers fresh evidence that physical activity is beneficial to the heart in people aged 65 and older. Benefits were observed both in elderly people who reported the highest amount of overall physical activity and in those who increased their physical activity over time.

U.S. researchers evaluated heart rate variability (HRV) using serial 24-hour Holter monitoring in 985 older adults over a 5-year period.  They found that greater total leisure-time activity, walking distance, and walking pace were each associated with more favorable HRV indices. HRV has been previously shown to predict cardiac risk.

Increased physical activity was also associated with additional measures of improved cardiovascular risk, including a healthier circadian pattern. Any physical activity “is better than none, and more is better,” write the authors. The results were consistent with previous studies in younger populations.

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