The Impact of High Intensity Aerobic Exercise on Cardiovascular Function in Older Adults


1 Purpose Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of mortality in the United States, and age alone is a risk factor for developing CVD1. Regular aerobic exercise can help prevent arterial stiffening that occurs with age, thus decreasing the risk of CVD1,4. Regular exercise has also been found to reduce resting pulse rate, another risk factor for CVD and adverse outcomes5. This study investigated the impact of a 3-4 month high intensity aerobic exercise regimen upon baseline cardiovascular function in sedentary middle age adults. 2. Methods Subjects were randomly assigned to an exercise or non-exercise group. The exercise group completed 36, 1-hour exercise sessions, 3 times a week over 3-4 months. Exercise was standardized for each subject and consisted of a 10-minute warm-up (range of motion exercise, walking, stretching), followed by a fast pace walk/jog on a treadmill for 40 minutes, and concluded with a 10-minute cooldown. A high intensity exercise at minimum 80% max heart rate was aimed for as long as possible in each session. Exercise intensity was progressively increased over the weeks of training. Heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels were monitored throughout the exercise sessions. Data was analyzed and compared between pre- and post-intervention with T-tests. 3. Results Preliminary results from the exercise group show normalization of the cardiovascular function during exercise as measured by heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation. Compared to baseline values, after the exercise training, average resting heart rate measurement decreased significantly from 88 bpm to 75 bpm. The maximum blood pressure values at the highest exercise intensity also decreased significantly between the first and last session of exercise, from 248/180 to 189/145. The oxygen saturation at the highest exercise intensity increased from 91 in the first exercise session to 96 in the last exercise session. No changes in HR, BP or SpO2were observed in the non-exercise group 4. Conclusion A program of sustained, high intensity aerobic exercise, at the upper limits of currently prescribed maximum heart rate is feasible in middle age and older sedentary individuals without adverse effects. Total exercise time and maximum exercise intensity increased for all subjects in the experimental group.

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