Lack of exercise more harmful than smoking, heart disease and diabetes?

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Oct 30, 2018 - 1:54:21 PM

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If you failed to add regular exercise to your life the result could be more harmful than smoking, heart disease and diabetes according to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.  There is a clear connection between living a longer, healthier life and high levels of exercise.


Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic studied 122,007 patients from 1991 to 2014, having them undergo treadmill testing and later recording their mortality rates. They discovered a direct connection between a longer, healthier life and high levels of exercise. The report calls for health care professionals to encourage patients to achieve and maintain a robust fitness routine.

The study found that increased cardiorespiratory fitness was directly associated with reduced long-term mortality, with no limit on the positive effects of aerobic fitness.

Aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest benefit, particularly in older patients (70 and older) and in those with hypertension.

“Aerobic fitness is something that most patients can control. And we found in our study there is no limit to how much exercise is too much,” Dr. Wael Jaber, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist and senior author of the study explained in a statement. “Everyone should be encouraged to achieve and maintain high fitness levels.”

Findings in the study which was released Oct. 19 emphasize the long-term benefits of exercise and fitness, even to extreme levels, regardless of age or coexistent cardiovascular disease.

“It is a known fact that exercise fights the aging process,” Tahara Muhammad, a fitness trainer in Atlanta told The Final Call.  “Just basic exercise, walking and caloric restriction can extend your life.  The less mobile you are, the less mobile you will become,” she explained.

“Exercise helps regulate stress, anxiety, and helps the brain function better.  As we get older, we lose muscle mass but if we are practicing regular physical activity, it can reduce muscle loss and maintain strength as we age.”

Recent studies have suggested connections between extreme exercise and certain adverse cardiovascular findings, such as atrial fibrillation and coronary artery disease. However, the new study from the Cleveland Clinic found that extreme fitness had the opposite affect and provided additional survival benefit over more modest levels of fitness, and that extremely fit patients lived the longest.

“We were particularly interested in the relationship between extremely high fitness and mortality,” said Kyle Mandsager, M.D., an electrophysiology fellow at Cleveland Clinic and the lead author of the study in a statement. “This relationship has never been looked at using objectively measured fitness, and on such a large scale.”

All of the study patients had previously undergone stress tests at the Cleveland Clinic, and were divided into five performance groups:  elite, high, above average, below average and low.

When the subgroups were analyzed by age, the survival benefit of elite versus high performance was most notable in older patients. In those over the age of 70, elite performers had a nearly 30 percent reduced risk of mortality compared to high performers.