We all know that exercising is good for you. Even a short walk a day can boost your physical health as well as improve your mental wellbeing. But how bad is NOT exercising for your long-term health? A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network open found that not exercising might be worse for you than smoking, diabetes, or heart disease.
The study was carried out at the Cleveland Clinic, with over 122,000 patients studied over treadmill testing. Where previous studies had relied on participants remembering and recalling their exercise routines, this study recorded it in real time as participants were monitored on a treadmill that got faster and with a steeper incline. The study took place from 1991 to 2014, giving the researchers 23 years of information to analyse, and then recorded mortality rates amongst the group.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the study found that high levels of cardiovascular fitness are directly linked to the health and longevity of the participants. But what was shocking was that those who latest the shortest amount of time on the treadmill has a higher risk of dying than people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
“Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis, as far as death, than being hypertensive, being diabetic, or being a current smoker” – Dr Wael Jaber, study co-author.
Whilst these findings can seem scary for those of us who aren’t able to exercise, or currently have no exercise routine, it’s important to remember that even short walks or basic stretching can make all the difference.
As well as these findings, the study also revealed that there is no upper limit to how much exercise one’s body can take. Previously, many scientists had been unsure whether high intensity and training was actually good for you. But this study showed there was no point where it became bad for you.
“There is no level of exercise or fitness that exposes you to risk…We can see from the study that the ultra-fit still have lower mortality … There is actually no ceiling for the benefit of exercise” – Dr Wael Jaber
In addition, there wasn’t a difference in the study results when it came to age or gender. Levels of fitness correlated to longer life, no matter how old the participants and were the same for both genders.
If you’re looking to start an exercise regime for the first time, it’s important to not jump in too deep, too quickly. Talk to your doctor about any existing conditions that should be considered and find something that suits you and your life. This will make it more likely that you will be able to keep up the exercise and not cause any damage. Whether its just talking walks every day, joining a yoga class or basic stretching and exercises at home, try different things to find what works. The important thing is to relax, enjoy it, and don’t stress too much.
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