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Vigorous Exercise may Repair Damaged Heart: Study

Update Date: Nov 05, 2012 03:13 AM EST

A new study suggests that vigorous exercise, if practiced daily, can repair a damaged heart.

According to a report in The Telegraph, researchers say strenuous exercising done regularly can bring back dormant stem cells in the heart to life, leading to the development of new heart muscle.

While previous studies have already discovered that stem cells could produce new tissues through injections of chemicals known as growth factors, the current study is the first to suggest that exercising could have a similar effect.

According to the study findings, damaged caused to the heart due to a heart failure or disease could be recovered up to 50 percent or more with just 30 minutes of running or cycling every day.

An earlier study on rats had shown that an equivalent amount of exercise caused revival of 60 percent of heart stem cells. After just two weeks, a 7 percent increase in the number of cardiomyocites, the "beating" cells in heart tissue, was recorded in the mice, report researchers in the European Heart Journal.

Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University now want to study the effects on mice which have undergone heart attacks to see if there is a greater benefit.

"The exercise is increasing the growth factors which are activating the stem cells to go on and repair the heart, and this is the first time that this potential has been shown. We hope it might be even more effective in damaged hearts because you have got more reason to replace the large amount of cells that are lost," lead author of the study, Dr. Georgina Ellison said, according to the report.

While not all heart attack patients who have undergone a severe damage of the heart will be able to exercise intensively, according to Dr. Ellison, a significant number of them would be able to meet up to the required amount of exercise, without risking their health.

"In a normal cardiac rehabilitation programme patients do undertake exercise, but what we are saying is maybe to be more effective it needs to be carried out at a higher intensity, in order to activate the resident stem cells," she said.

"This study adds to the growing evidence that adult hearts may be able to make new muscle from dormant stem cells. However, much more research is now needed to find out whether what's been seen in this study can be translated into treatments for human patients," Prof. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

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