Q: Does any proof exist that exercise can help a person live longer?
A: Absolutely. In fact, one of the largest study measuring fitness ever conducted found that exercise will indeed help a person live longer.
Led by Dr. Steven Blair of the Institute of Aerobics Research in Dallas, the eight-year study evaluated the fitness and mortality levels of 13,344 men and women. Researchers involved with the study found that exercise reduces the death rate from all causes, particularly cancer and heart disease.
Physical fitness was measured by each subject's performance on a standardized treadmill test - a test which is designed to accurately assess aerobic fitness (the most commonly accepted indicator of physical "health"). Based on the test results, the subjects were then grouped by gender into five categories ranging from least to most fit.
The results of the study, which were published in the Journal of The American Medical Association
, showed that the higher the fitness level the lower the death rate, after the data was adjusted for age differences between the subjects.
Compared with the most-fit subjects, individuals in the least-fit category had death rates 3.4 and 4.6 times higher for men and women respectively. The differences in mortality rates held relatively constant even after obvious causal factors, such as smoking and cholesterol level, were considered.
For both men and women, the largest drop from one fitness category to another was from the least-fit to the next most-fit group. Expressed as deaths per 10,000 person-years, the age-adjusted death rates for men and women in the sedentary category fell from 64 and 39.5 to 25.5 and 20.5 respectively in the next most-fit group, a decline of more than 60 percent for men and 48 percent for women.
The implication of Blair's findings are extraordinarily significant, particularly for a sedentary individual. On a major scale, this study documents the fact that a modest amount of exercise can and does go a long way. The equivalent of walking 30 minutes a day is all that is required to move from the most sedentary category to the next most fit category.
Bryant, Cedric X. 101 Frequently Asked Questions about "Health & Fitness" and "Nutrition & Weight Control". Sagamore Publishing, 1999.
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