Exercising moderately and cutting 250 calories per day can improve heart health in older adults, researchers report.
For the study, U.S. scientists undertook a randomised controlled trial comprised of 160 sedentary adults, who were aged between 65 and 79 and classed as obese.
Each participant was randomly assigned to one intervention group for 20 weeks and required to either exercise with their regular diet, exercise and adopt moderate calorie restriction, and exercise and implement a more intensive calorie restriction.
Accordingly, the team discovered that weight loss of nearly 10 per cent of total body weight or about 20 pounds over the five-month study period was associated with significant improvements in aortic stiffness - but only in the participants assigned to the exercise plus moderate calorie restriction group.
"Our findings indicate that lifestyle changes designed to increase aerobic activity and moderately decrease daily calorie intake may help to reduce aortic stiffness and improve overall vascular health," said lead author Dr. Tina E. Brinkley. "However, we were surprised to find that the group that reduced their calorie intake the most did not have any improvements in aortic stiffness, even though they had similar decreases in body weight and blood pressure as the participants with moderate calorie restriction.
"These results suggest that combining exercise with modest calorie restriction - as opposed to more intensive calorie restriction or no-calorie restriction - likely maximizes the benefits on vascular health, while also optimizing weight loss and improvements in body composition and body fat distribution.
Full study results have been published in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation.