A recent study suggests that lack of exercise may boost risk of early death in middle-aged men nearly as much as smoking. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that leading a sedentary life is the next in line after smoking on the early death risk factor list.
Lack of physical activity in middle age was even more risky than high blood pressure and cholesterol in the long run, researchers noted. Additionally, the study revealed that men who had the lowest aerobic capacity were lees likely to reach their golden years.
Dr Per Ladenvall, one of the researchers involved in the study noted that the health benefits of exercise are clear. Ladenvall said that we made great progress in reducing smoking rates but it is still extremely hard to convince people to exercise.
Study authors warned that prolonged sitting is a major risk factor that can lead to early death in this age group. The findings were based on data on 792 men in their 1950s who were originally tracked for four years.
Four years later, participants were asked to do a physical test that pushed them to the limit. Some of the participants were not allowed to do the test as they had underlying medical conditions that put their lives at risk.
During the test, researchers measured maximum oxygen consumption of each participant. Men who scored the highest on the maximum oxygen consumption test had the highest aerobic capacity which means that they were some of the fittest in their group.
Next, men were followed for 45 more years through 2012, when some of them were already 100 years old. In the meantime, participants were tested every 10 years. The study showed that men who maintained a high aerobic capacity over the decades had a lower risk of dying early over 45 years.
By contrast, those with lower aerobic capacity were more likely to die early than their more fit peers.
Study authors noted that their research is outstanding in its length – about half a century. They acknowledged, however, that when the study started the data on general population’s level of fitness were scarce.
So, their findings are representative only to men in Gothenburg who lived over that time period and should not be applied to other men. The findings, however, are in line with past research which had underscored the health risks of a sedentary life or prolonged sitting at work.
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