Health Notes: Largest-ever study to link positive benefits of exercise and lower death risk - SNEWS

Health Notes: Largest-ever study to link positive benefits of exercise and lower death risk

A study released Jan. 22 has shown that the more fit a man is, the lower his risk of death -- and even moderate exercise dramatically lowers the rates. The study is the largest-ever known to assess the link between fitness and mortality.
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A study released Jan. 22 has shown that the more fit a man is, the lower his risk of death -- and even moderate exercise dramatically lowers the rates. The study is the largest-ever known to assess the link between fitness and mortality.

"It is important to emphasize that it takes relatively moderate levels of physical activity -- like brisk walking -- to attain the associated health benefits. Certainly, one does not need to be a marathon runner," said Peter Kokkinos, Ph.D., lead author of the study and director of the Exercise Testing and Research Lab in the cardiology department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

The research, conducted at the veterans' centers in Washington, D.C., and Palo Alto, Calif., included 15,660 men. All of the men were tested for exercise capacity and oxygen use -- i.e. fitness level -- then followed for 7 ½ years with deaths noted for the study.

Participants were classified into four ranges of fitness -- very highly fit, high-fit, moderately fit and low-fit. Participants were spread among all four categories with more classified as moderately fit and high-fit than very highly fit or low-fit.

The study found highly fit men had half the risk of death compared to low-fit men. Men who achieved very highly fit levels had a 70 percent lower risk of death compared to those in the low-fit category.

According to Kokkinos, most middle-age and older individuals can attain fitness levels with the equivalent of a brisk walk, 30 minutes per day, five to six days each week, although not everyone can start with 30 minutes daily. In that case, he suggested the routine be split up into 10- or 15-minute segments twice a day.

So what? None of your customers must be told to do 30 minutes or even an hour or more daily to achieve health benefits. That in itself could be intimidating information. To note that, one, even moderate exercise can help and, two, that splitting up a routine in short, manageable segments is good news that should be passed along.

For the scientifically minded: Non-subscribers can access an abstract of the article released Jan. 22, 2008, but was to be published Feb.5 (117: 614-622) in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, by clicking here. Full articles are available for a fee.

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