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Exercise is Key to Longer Life

Results from a new study, shared in this short video, demonstrate the importance of exercise and movement to your health. Exercise may be one of the best preventive strategies against common chronic ailments, including heart disease and diabetes.

The more time you spend sitting, the shorter your life expectancy,1 thanks to the negative impact on your cardiovascular and metabolic functions. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists inactivity as the cause of 3.2 million deaths each year.2

In one meta-analysis,3 researchers found those who sat the longest were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, as compared to those who sat the least. This combination takes a high cost on society, contributing to billions of dollars each year in health care costs and lost productivity.4

According to researchers, lack of activity is also the cause of more than 5 million deaths each year.5 To put this in perspective, smoking kills nearly 7 million annually.6 To achieve optimal health, you need to include a weekly workout regimen and move as much as possible throughout each day. In three recent studies,7,8,9 researchers evaluated the effect of exercise on longevity.

Exercise Is a Better Predictor of Longevity Than Your Age

A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology10 sought to estimate a patient's age based on performance during an exercise stress test. Over a 125,000 patients referred for exercise stress testing were included.

Estimated age was based on exercise capacity. After nearly nine years of follow-up, researchers discovered the patient's estimated age based on their exercise stress test was a better predictor of mortality as compared to chronological age. The results held true for both men and women.

Researchers believe the key take-home messages were that exercise variables are powerful predictors of survival, and health care providers could consider using their physiological age as a way to motivate their patients to exercise more.11 A similar study12 evaluated 8,000 middle-aged and older adults and found adding physical activity of any intensity or duration cut their risk of early death.

The researchers believe the findings highlight the importance of movement, regardless of intensity. Participants wore activity monitors over a four-day period to record the intensity of physical activity. Death rate was tabulated through 2017 and this data was used to estimate how substituting exercise for time spent sitting would affect the risk of early death.13

The researchers discovered the risk could be cut by 17 percent by replacing 30 minutes of sitting with low intensity exercise, such as walking. However, replacing 30 minutes with moderate to vigorous exercise cut the risk by 35 percent. In the third study,14 Ball State researchers examined fitness levels, finding ramping up exercise intensity increases the level of benefits.

Rather than a goal of simply moving, researchers recommend increasing the intensity to boost cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) levels. This is the first study to directly measure CRF in men and women, rather than using estimation. According to the press release:15

• Improving fitness increases control over how long and well we live.

• Women with low fitness levels had a higher risk of dying from any cause, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including cardiac arrest, coronary artery disease, heart failure, myocardial infarction, stroke and cancer than women with moderate and high fitness.

• Participants in the low-fit group were more likely to die early from any cause, including CVD and cancer.

• Low-fitness men had a threefold greater risk for CVD mortality compared with high-fitness men.

You Can't Out-Exercise Your Diet

Although results from these new studies are encouraging, it's important to remember you cannot out-exercise your diet. In other words, exercising in the belief this allows you to eat whatever you want significantly reduces the benefits you'll achieve, and a diet based on processed junk food reduces your chances of getting fit and healthy even further.

Obesity is associated with an increased risk of disease and death, including CVD, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.16 If you'd like to take off a few pounds and keep it off, it's crucial to understand your diet is more important than exercise. Even though physical movement is a leveraging agent allowing you to optimize your health and fitness, you'll never out-exercise your mouth.17,18

This discrepancy is a major clue to the strategy likely to have the greatest impact on your weight. Morgan Spurlock's documentary "Supersize Me" was one of the first to demonstrate the consequences of sustaining yourself on a fast food diet. After just four weeks his health had deteriorated to the point his physician warned he was putting his life in serious jeopardy if he continued the experiment.

However, it doesn't take 30 days to experience the health effects of a poor diet. According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology,19 changes can happen after a single meal. Thus, it is vital to recognize the importance of balancing a nutritional diet with increased activity and exercise.

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