Midlife Fitness Reduces Disease Late in Life

There is a constant march of high quality scientific evidence that regular vigorous physical exercise prevents disease and extends lifespan.

The latest study to add to this body of evidence specifically measures the fitness level of middle aged people and then follows them longitudinally for the occurrence of disease and death.

The researchers analyzed 15,760 people (21% female) who were an average age of 49 at the study onset.  At the onset, all of the participants were measured for aerobic fitness using a treadmill test.  The participants were scored based on how long they could continue on the Balke treadmill test which begins at 3.3 mph and each minute the slope is increased by 1%.  The subjects were then assigned into one of 5 quintiles of physical fitness, with 5 being the most fit.  Quintile 1 could tolerate 11 minutes of the test whereas quintile 5 could tolerate 23 minutes (averge for males).

The correlation between degree of fitness and occurrence of late life disease after an average of 26 years of follow up was striking.

Patients in the highest level of fitness at middle age had a significant reduction in the number of chronic diseases developed versus those in the lowest quintile (15.6 vs 28.2 per 100 patient years in males).  Chronic diseases measured including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease.

They also found strong evidence of morbidity compression in the most fit individuals.  This is the name given to the state where people are healthy up to the point of death, with the onset of disease being delayed to the latest point in life.  Among the 12.9% of subjects who died in the study, the most fit had a significantly lower morbidity compression ratio

The authors conclude “in this cohort of healthy middle-aged adults, fitness was significantly associated with a lower risk of developing chronic disease outcomes during 26 years of follow-up. These findings suggest that higher midlife fitness may be associated with the compression of morbidity in older age.”

Full Text Reference

Share This Post

Recent Articles

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress · Designed by Theme Junkie