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Your Healthy Family: Study links cardiac fitness to longevity

Posted at 8:12 AM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-09 11:27:37-04

CLEVELAND, OHIO – It’s no secret that being physically fit makes us feel better.

Now, a new study shows that our level of cardiac fitness can play a big role in our chances of living a long life.

According to study author Wael Jaber, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, the results show our amount of benefit from cardiac fitness increases as our level of fitness increases.

“With every increment of time spent on the treadmill during the exercise stress test, there is a benefit as far as mortality,” he said. “It’s almost like giving a medication and giving a higher and higher dose of medication.”

The study looked at nearly 25 years of data from 122,007 patients. Researchers studied patients’ cardiac fitness according to their results from treadmill stress tests.

The stress test results were categorized into five levels of fitness.

In addition to finding an increased benefit for each level of fitness reached, Dr. Jaber said the study also found that there was no ceiling when it came to how fit a person could be, meaning, they did not find a point where too much cardiac fitness had a negative impact on longevity.

Researchers also found the benefit of aerobic exercise was not unique to any specific age group or gender – everyone was able to benefit from higher levels of fitness.

Dr. Jaber said even those with a history of heart disease, heart risk factors, and the very elderly still had a large benefit from better cardiac fitness.

He said the study shows that by training our way to a higher level of fitness, we can move the needle when it comes to changing our risk of premature death.

“The more time you are able to spend on a treadmill stress test is similar to the effect that you get from reducing risk factors,” said Dr. Jaber. “If you treat somebody for hypertension for example, or high cholesterol, you’d expect a certain reduction in mortality. This research shows that going from being sedentary to starting an exercise program – and increasing aerobic fitness – translates into a benefit that is similar to that seen from taking medications for high blood pressure, for high cholesterol, or not smoking.”

Dr. Jaber said people can actually ask their doctors for an exercise prescription – which can help them get access to cardiac rehabilitation programs and supervised care to increase their cardiac fitness.

Complete results of the study can be found in JAMA Network Open.