Archive for October, 2009
“Close” isn’t exactly a word we connect in our mind with achievement. Indeed, very little in life, it seems, counts much at all if you don’t “hit the nail on the head.” Well, it would seem that this may not be entirely the case when it comes to an extended lifespan. We, chiropractors, have many older patients and we are firm believers in the advantages of exercise at every age. You will be, too, after you read about the following study.
Researchers found that of the “least-fit” versus the “slightly more fit” in a recent study of nearly 4,400 healthy U.S. adults, roughly 20 percent with the lowest physical fitness levels were twice as likely to die over the nine years of the study as the 20 percent with the next-lowest fitness levels. (In other words, those 20 percent who were close to the lowest fitness levels.) This is the familiar “bad news/good news” type of result. It is certainly bad news if you are a confirmed couch potato. However, it is definitely good news for those who haven’t completely embraced a sedentary lifestyle but are not, by any means, energetic. Apparently, those men and women who stay only moderately fit as they age may have greater longevity than those who are entirely out-of-shape, the study suggests.
Between 1986 and 2006, researchers evaluated the fitness levels of 4,384 middle-aged and senior adults during exercise treatmill tests. The researchers then observed their progress for close to nine years. The study took into consideration factors like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. This, in and of itself, underscores the significants of being physically fit. In an email to Reuters Health, lead researcher, Dr. Sandra Mandic of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, stated: “Our findings suggest that a sedentary lifestyle, rather than differences in cardiovascular risk factors or age, may explain the two-fold higher mortality rates in the least-fit versus slightly more fit individuals.”
Nearly two-thirds of the least-fit study participants were not getting the minimum recommended amount of exercise, which is at least 30 minutes of moderate activity (like brisk walking) five or more days a week. “These results emphasize the importance of improving and maintaining high fitness levels by engaging in regular physical activity,” Mandic said, “particularly in poorly-fit individuals.”
After classifying the participants into five groups based on fitness levels, the researchers determined that 13 percent of those who were in slightly better shape had died during the study period. But, 25 percent of the least-fit participants had died during the same period. Only 6 percent of the most-fit group (i.e., the ones who “hit the nail on the head,” so to speak) had died during the follow-up period.
The notable finding was that overall, the five fitness-level groups showed little difference in their reported exercise habits over their adult lives, but where they varied was their activity levels in recent years. “Since it is recent physical activity that offers protection,” Mandic said, “it is important to maintain regular physical activity throughout life.”
And, perhaps it goes without saying, imagine the health advantages we could all obtain if we sought to achieve the higher levels of fitness.
SOURCE: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, August 2009.