It is increasingly obvious that a good diet is not enough to keep us healthy and that physical activity must be combined with a diet to extend our life expectancy. But improving physical fitness does not require doing great effort activities. That is the main conclusion of a study presented at EuroPrevent 2019. This is the largest analysis to date on cardiorespiratory fitness in healthy people. The results show that moving more is related to living longer, regardless of age, sex and initial fitness level.
“People think they have to start going to the gym and exercise to be fit,” explains Elin Ekblom-Bak, study leader, in a statement. “But it doesn’t have to be so complicated. For most people, simply being more active in daily life is climbing the stairs, leaving the subway one station earlier, cycling to work … All this is enough to benefit health since the initial levels are very low and if we do more, better.”
The study included 316,137 adults 18 to 74 years old and what is known as VO2 max was measured: the maximum amount of oxygen that the heart and lungs can provide to the muscles during exercise.
The risk of mortality from all causes and cardiovascular events was reduced between 2.8% and 3.2% for every milliliter of increase in VO2 max. The benefits of physical fitness were observed in men and women, in all age groups and in all fitness levels.
“It is particularly important to keep in mind that an increase in physical condition was beneficial regardless of when you had started exercising,” adds Ekblom-Bak. “This suggests that people with lower levels of cardiorespiratory fitness have more to gain by improving their physical condition. Our previous research had shown that the physical condition in the general population decreased by 10% in the last 25 years. In 2016-2017, almost one in two men and women had a low fitness level, so this is a big problem. Poor physical condition is as harmful as smoking, obesity and diabetes, even in otherwise healthy adults, but unlike these other risk factors, it is not measured routinely. ”