New research into the effects of exercise on the heart could make it easier to tailor rehabilitation and recreational exercise for people with heart problems.
The study shows that the type of exercise done by athletes can cause differences in structural changes in the heart.
Researchers found a size increase in both the left and right ventricles in athletes after 90 days of team training.
However, athletes that only did strength training showed excessive growth in their left ventricles, but no change in the size of their right ventricle.
In the study, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, the hearts of 40 endurance athletes and 24 strength athletes were examined. Researchers found that while the ability of the left ventricle to fully relax between beats, or diastolic function, was enhanced in the endurance athletes, it worsened in the strength trainers.
Left ventricle mass increased in both groups but the endurance athletes also showed better diastolic function in their left ventricle, and enlargement and more efficient contraction and relaxation in both of the lower chambers of the heart, or atria.