(HealthDay News) — Men who begin endurance exercise after age 40 may get similar long-term heart benefits as those who start training before age 30, new research finds. Men in both exercise groups showed similar evidence of exercise-related improvements in heart structure and function, according to a study presented at the annual EuroPRevent meeting, held from May 8–10 in Amsterdam.

The study included 40 healthy men, between the ages of 55–70, who had no heart disease risk factors. Ten of the men had never exercised for >2 hours a week. The remaining 30 had exercised for ≥7 hours a week for >5 years, either beginning before age 30 or after age 40. Their regular exercise involved either cycling or running.

Men who began their “relatively intensive” endurance exercise before age 30 had been doing it for an average of 39 years (since the age of 22), while those who started after age 40 had been doing it for an average of 18 years (since age 48). Resting heart rates were similar among men in both exercise groups (about 57 to 58 beats per minute), but were much higher among men who didn’t exercise (nearly 70 beats per minute). The men in the two exercise groups also had much higher maximum oxygen uptake than those who didn’t exercise.

“Thus, despite biological changes with age, the heart still seems — even at the age of 40 — amenable to modification by endurance training. Starting at the age of 40 does not seem to impair the cardiac benefits,” study author David Matelot, of the French Institute of Health and Medical Research in Rennes, said in a statement.

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