New study links better cardiorespiratory fitness with a longer life

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New large-scale research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that a higher level of cardiovascular fitness is linked to a lower risk of death, especially in those with an extremely high level of fitness.

Carried out by researchers at Cleveland Clinic in the USA, the new study looked at 122,007 participants who underwent exercise treadmill testing to assess the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and all-cause mortality.

Participants were divided into five fitness performance groups — elite, high, above average, below average and low — with elite performers defined as having aerobic fitness in the top two and half percent by age and gender, and demonstrating fitness levels comparable to those of endurance athletes.

The researchers also gathered data on age and sex of participants, height, weight, and body mass index, smoking status, and any medications or existing diseases such as a history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hypertension.

After taking into account these factors, the findings showed that increased cardiorespiratory fitness was directly associated with reduced long-term mortality.

In addition, the researchers also found that there is no limit to the positive effects of aerobic fitness, with extreme aerobic fitness associated with the greatest benefit.

This finding was especially notable in older patients and those with hypertension. In those over the age of 70, elite performers benefited from a nearly 30 per cent reduced risk of mortality compared to high performers, and for patients with hypertension, the elite performers again showed a nearly 30 per cent reduction in all-cause mortality compared to high performers.

“We were particularly interested in the relationship between extremely high fitness and mortality,” commented lead author Kyle Mandsager, MD, “This relationship has never been looked at using objectively measured fitness, and on such a large scale.”

The study’s findings highlight the long-term benefits of exercise and fitness, even to extreme levels and regardless of age or existing disease. The authors added that healthcare professionals should be encouraging patients to achieve and maintain high levels of fitness, although they also noted that patients should always check with their healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.

“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,” said senior author of the study Wael Jaber, M.D. “Everyone should be encouraged to achieve and maintain high fitness levels.”

This article or news story originally appeared on AFP