It’s never too late to get fit and protect your heart! Now there’s one more reason to keep up your activity levels in middle age, as a new study has found that six years of exercising during that period cuts your risk of heart failure by a third.

Heart failure is a long-term inability of the heart to pump enough blood, or to pump hard enough, to keep oxygen levels up in the body. It’s the leading cause of hospitalisation in people over 65 and its risk factors include family history, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure.

That’s why this study, which examined more than 11,000 adults, is so encouraging.

The best part is that, to see the benefits, you don’t need to take up a crazy health kick. Just the recommended amounts of moderate weekly exercise will be enough to slash your heart failure risks.

‘In everyday terms our findings suggest that consistently participating in the recommended 150 minutes or moderate to vigorous activity each week, such as brisk walking or biking, in middle age may be enough to reduce your heart failure risk by 31 per cent,’ says study leader Dr Chiadi Ndumele, from John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland.

The study took place over 19 years, and also revealed that going without exercise for six years lead to an increased risk of heart problems.

‘Unlike other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, we don’t have specifically effective drugs to prevent heart failure, so we need to identify and verify effective strategies for prevention,’ says co-author Dr Roberta Florido.