We’ve long known exercise is good for improving arthritis, back pain and other chronic pain, and a new study shows it can literally save your life.
In fact, the study’s authors put it this way: not exercising is as bad for you as smoking. This study, undertaken by Cleveland Clinic researchers, is significant because it subjected 122,007 patients to treadmill testing from 1991 to 2014 – a depth and breadth of research we don’t see too often.
The research involved testing people on a treadmill and then later recording their mortality rates. Testing cardiorespiratory fitness and long term mortality found that cardiorespiratory fitness is inversely associated with all-cause mortality – another way of saying people who exercise more and build up strong cardiorespiratory fitness are more likely to have a longer, healthier life.
The good news is that fitness can be changed to benefit your longevity and health – the study authors consider cardiorespiratory fitness a modifiable indicator of long-term mortality, which means it’s possible to influence your mortality rate by changing how active you are.
The study also found sedentary lifestyle may come at a great cost, comparing inactivity to having a major disease. They found that being unfit on a treadmill has a worse prognosis concerning death than being hypertensive, diabetic, or a current smoker.
The research consistently found the more people exercise, the lower their mortality rates.
What are some keys to improving your cardiorespiratory fitness?
Not moving is a killer, and causes suffering in other ways – without movement your body gradually stiffens up, making you more prone to injury, and more likely to suffer from pain.
Our bodies are largely fluid. We are meant to move. Aim to move whenever possible: don’t park too close to the shops; get up off the couch regularly; walk places you might otherwise drive; play with the grandkids; take up a class; anything, just keep moving – your joints, your heart, your muscles and your mind will thank you for it.
The biggest key to success with exercise is finding an activity you like. You’re more likely to commit, and enjoy its full benefits.
Improving your fitness will be a life-changing decision for the better which you never regret. But it takes time, and is best considered a journey which may have some unexpected twists and turns. Fitness improves gradually and you need to be prepared mentally to deal with setbacks – developing a flexible and resilient mindset helps overcome these setbacks, whether it’s managing an injury or having to modify your activity.
The most powerful fitness regimes incorporate low, medium and high intensity exercise (anyone with a heart issue should be checked before they engage in high intensity exercise).
Low intensity exercise such as walking or gardening can be done everyday; medium intensity exercise might include swimming, jogging or cycling, and is something you may do two to four times a week; high intensity exercise gets the heart rate up and is something you may do three times a week, just for a few minutes at a time – the important thing with high intensity is to reach 85 per cent of your capacity, and avoid going 100 per cent or “flat out” because this is when injury occurs.
At 85 per cent you are a step down from flat out. High intensity can be achieved with many different exercises, such as exercise bike, jogging on the spot, skipping, star jumps, push-ups, sit-ups and squat-jumps. You can combine these different exercises as you like. Find the formula which suits you and you’ll never look back.
Different people can undertake different levels of fitness and exercise due to pre-existing health conditions. If concerned, talk to a health professional or GP before undertaking exercise to ensure you find the right fit for your unique circumstances.