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Mass. General study shows how exercise changes structure and function of heart
Date:4/22/2008

For the first time researchers are beginning to understand exactly how various forms of exercise impact the heart. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators, in collaboration with the Harvard University Health Services, have found that 90 days of vigorous athletic training produces significant changes in cardiac structure and function and that the type of change varies with the type of exercise performed. Their study appears in the April Journal of Applied Physiology.

Most of what we know about cardiac changes in athletes and other physically active people comes from snapshots, taken at one specific point in time. What we did in this first-of-a-kind study was to follow athletes over several months to determine how the training process actually causes change to occur, says Aaron Baggish, MD, a fellow in the MGH Cardiology Division and lead author of the study.

To investigate how exercise affects the heart over time, the MGH researchers enrolled two groups of Harvard University student athletes at the beginning of the fall 2006 semester. One group was comprised of endurance athletes 20 male and 20 female rowers and the other, strength athletes 35 male football players. Student athletes were studied while participating their normal team training, with emphasis on how the heart adapts to a typical season of competitive athletics.

Echocardiography studies ultrasound examination of the hearts structure and function were taken at the beginning and end of the 90-day study period. Participants followed the normal training regimens developed by their coaches and trainers, and weekly training activity was recorded. Endurance training included one- to three-hour sessions of on-water practice or use of indoor rowing equipment. The strength athletes took part in skill-focused drills, exercises designed to improve muscle strength and reaction time, and supervised weight training. Participants also were questioned confidenti
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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