Being sedentary and out of shape may have a more detrimental effect on one's health than other well-known risk factors such as smoking, hypertension and heart disease, according the results of a recent study.
Researchers from Stanford University Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System studied more than 6,000 men for an average of six years. The average age of participants was 59.
More than half had experienced an abnormal exercise-test result and/or had a history of cardiovascular disease; nearly one-third had suffered a heart attack, and many had risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and a history of smoking.
The remaining men were apparently healthy without a history of cardiovascular disease.
During the study period, more than 1,200 patients died, most of whom were older. After adjusting for age, however, researchers concluded that exercise capacity was a more powerful predictor of mortality than any other risk factor.
They also found that as exercise capacity improved, patients experienced corresponding improvements in survival rates.
In a corresponding editorial, Dr. Gary J. Balady of Boston Medical Center compares these new findings with Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest. Balady urges physicians to go beyond identifying risk factors and to encourage and prescribe increased physical activity as an essential step in reducing one's risk of death.
Source: The New England Journal of Medicine, 2002; 346, 793-801, 852-854
This appeared in ACE FitnessMatters, ACE's official magazine.Click here to order your subscription today.
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