OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of an 18 week walking programme upon cardiac function. METHODS: 29 sedentary or relatively inactive but otherwise healthy subjects (15 walkers and 14 controls, aged 40-68 years) completed the study. The walkers completed a progressive 18 week walking programme which required an estimated average energy expenditure of 900 kcal week-1 for the total duration of the study and 1161 kcal week-1 during the final six weeks. Walking was carried out at an intensity of 67.8 (SD 4.99)% of maximum oxygen consumption and 73.8(6.99%) of maximum heart rate. Before and after the intervention all subjects underwent an M mode echocardiogram, graded treadmill walking test, and step test for the assessment of aerobic fitness. RESULTS: After 18 weeks the results of the control group showed no change in any of the variables measured while the walkers showed a statistically significant increase in the velocity of relaxation of the longitudinal myocardial fibres of the left ventricle and a decrease in heart rate measured during the step tests, indicating an improvement in aerobic capacity. CONCLUSIONS: Walking promotes improvements in cardiovascular fitness. Moderate forms of exercise may improve cardiac function.
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