The Payoff of Midlife Fitness
- on September 13, 2012
Great news from the Cooper Institute:
DALLAS (Aug. 27, 2012) — A new study from The Cooper Institute in collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center, shows that individuals who are fit at midlife have fewer chronic diseases in their Medicare years and spend less time with these diseases. The study, published this month in The Archives of Internal Medicine, is one of the first to look at the relationship between fitness and the burden of chronic illnesses in aging.
Benjamin Willis, MD, MPH, was the first author on the study which also included co-authors Laura DeFina, MD, and David Leonard, PhD, of The Cooper Institute and Jarret Berry, MD, and Ang Gao, MS, of UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The group followed over 18,000 generally healthy men and women who completed a baseline preventive medical examination at Cooper Clinic in Dallas when they were, on average, 49 years of age. Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using a maximal treadmill exercise test. The exam also included an assessment of other health risk factors such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and cholesterol. Their health status was evaluated using Medicare data on average 26 years after examination.
Results showed that higher midlife fitness was strongly associated with fewer chronic conditions in later life. “What sets this study apart is that it focuses on the relationship between midlife fitness and quality of life in later years. By that I mean, fitter individuals aged well with fewer chronic illnesses to impact their quality of life,” says Willis. Those people in the study who were fitter had a lower burden of chronic conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.
Another unique finding of the study was that even among those participants who had died during the study, the fittest spent less time in their final years burdened with chronic health conditions. “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," said Berry, senior author of the study.
“This research illustrates perfectly what we’ve been practicing for over 40 years. A healthy and fit lifestyle allows us to square off the curve,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics. “That means we want people to spend most of their lives in good health with an active lifestyle and less time with a chronic disease.”