Intensive exercise can repair heart tissue, scientists claim

The fact that exercise can be immensely beneficial is not new to scientists and the general public, but researchers from Liverpool John Moores University have found that regular intensive exercise can do more than maintain good general health. In fact, it can repair a damaged heart.

The study, which was published in the European Heart Journal, reveals thatheart tissue damaged by heart disease or a heart attack can be repaired by at least half an hour of daily physical activity, such as cycling and running. In order to boost stems back into action, the exercise should be intensive enough to produce sweat.

Researchers claim that if heart stem cells, which are inactive in adults, could be activated, this could boost the production of cardiomyocites - the cells that produce heart muscle. Tests on rats show that vigorous exercise can activate more that 60% of those cells. The next step in their research would be to see if the effect can be noticed on mice which have suffered heart attacks for greater benefit.

The author of the study, Dr Georgina Ellison, explains that 30-minute exercise sessions should not be risky for the majority of people with heart damage, but she stresses on the fact that exercise needs to be intensive in order to produce the desired effect.

Prof Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the research, confirms that the study shows the potential repair abilities of dormant stem cells, but adds that extra tests should be carried out before the mechanism can be established in humans.