Fitness Level Found Vital in Men's Death
The fittest may indeed survive the longest, according
to new research suggesting that physical fitness is
more important in death risk than even high blood pressure,
high cholesterol or smoking.
The study of more than 6,200 US men who underwent treadmill
testing for cardiovascular disease found that the risk
of death over the next 6 years declined as exercise
capacity rose. This was true of both men with cardiovascular
disease and those whose exercise tests were normal.
Exercise capacity was the best predictor of death risk
among men with cardiovascular disease. And among all
participants, those in the group with the lowest exercise
capacity were about four times more likely to die during
the study period compared with the fittest group.
Overall, fitness mattered more in death risk than such
classic cardiovascular risk factors as high blood pressure,
smoking and body mass index.
For instance, a man who had high blood pressure but
was among the fittest was about half as likely to die
as a man with high blood pressure and low fitness levels.
Findings like this, the researchers write, "confirm
the protective role" of exercise, even in individuals
with other health risk factors.
The study also showed the less-fit can improve their
survival by becoming more physically active.
Current US guidelines for exercise recommend that all
healthy adults take up some moderate physical activity
for at least 30 minutes a day on most, and preferably
all, days of the week. People with cardiovascular disease
should consult their doctors about an appropriate exercise
The New England Journal of Medicine March 14, 2002;346:793-801,