Following physical maturity, all body functions inevitably progressively decline with aging; however, there is a great deal of variability in the rate of decline and the associated development of significant functional impairments. Both genetic and lifestyle factors, including physical activity habits, contribute to this variability in physiological changes, as well as to the associated risk of chronic degenerative diseases. The effect of healthy natural aging on functional capacity and its related cardiovascular and respiratory contributors has primarily been studied by cross-sectional and, less frequently, by longitudinal studies. In these studies, physically active men and women at all ages were observed to have a superior functional capacity, as well as a lower rate of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality, as compared with matched sedentary individuals. In addition, a limited number of studies, involving healthy elderly men and women, have demonstrated that moderate-to-vigorous exercise training can substantially improve functional capacity and modify many of the age-related cardiovascular changes. The purpose of this article is to review the effects of natural or so-called primary or eugeric aging on the cardiovascular system and associated functional capacity and the extent of modification of these changes by regular exercise.
- cardiovascular effects