Fitness is a very important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but a new study sheds some light on how crucial it really is to get moving every day.
The long-term study followed nearly 800 men who took part in an exercise test at age 54 and were reevaluated periodically over the next 45 years. Findings of the study suggest that a low fitness level could be a leading predictor of early death.
While smoking was the factor found to be most closely associated with mortality, a lack of fitness was next in line, having a closer association than high cholesterol and high blood pressure, according to a news release.
“Avoiding exercise can contribute to a number of conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes,” says Dr. Sorin Danciu, a cardiologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “These diseases can be serious, and one of the best ways to manage them is to make sure you’re eating right and exercising. There are often other factors contributing to illness that can’t be controlled, such as genetics, so it’s vitally important that we are taking care of ourselves as best as possible.”
Researchers were also careful to note that the results suggest poor fitness may be associated with early death, not a cause of it.
“No matter your age, physical fitness should be a staple in your lifestyle,” says Dr. Danciu. “If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, start with a small amount and build up from there. Try to do 10 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day.”
Dr. Danciu encourages talking to your physician to help determine what type of exercise might be right for you, adding that recommendations for physical activity can differ from person to person depending on an individual’s health history and use of medications.
He also cautions that exercise is only one part of living a healthy life.
“Exercise makes us feel good, but committing to a healthy diet is equally important,” says Dr. Danciu. “It’s true that we are what we eat.”