Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center and The Cooper Institute have found that individuals who maintain their physical fitness in their 30s, 40s, and 50s not only exhibit a greater likelihood of living longer, they also increase their chances of aging free of chronic illnesses. Dr. Jarrett Berry, senior author of the study, said “We’ve determined that being fit is not just delaying the inevitable, but it is actually lowering the onset of chronic disease in the final years of life.”
Researchers reviewed patient data of almost 19,000 participants in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, which itself contained more than 250,000 medical records maintained over 40 years, and linked the information to the patients’ Medicare claims filed between the ages of 70-85. Those patients who increased their fitness levels in their midlife years by 20% were 20% less likely to have developed a chronic disease such as congestive heart failure or colon cancer. Individuals who maintained higher levels of overall fitness lived their final five years of life with fewer chronic diseases; reducing the burden of such illnesses and experiencing greater overall quality of life as a result. Both men and women appeared to experience these benefits in an equal fashion.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that adults attain at least 2.5 hours of moderate to intense aerobic activity (e.g., walking, running, or cycling) each week to experience and maintain optimal health benefits.
Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine