Don’t give up!

“It’s never too late to start” and “don’t give up” are two of my favorite clichés–at least in talking with patients. And now a new study makes them even more relevant. And proves what I’ve been saying for years. Staying fit during middle age can help lower your risk of developing chronic disease. Including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.

I am committed to staying fit. And I hope that when you read the Reality Health Checks you can see that it has nothing to do with vanity (well, maybe a little). It’s got everything to do with staying healthy.

And according to the research, physical activity represents an important determinant of healthy aging. The study was conducted by researchers at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. They defined healthy aging as having a low burden of chronic illness.

Researchers looked at 18,670 healthy participants with an average age of 49. They used treadmill testing to measure the participants’ fitness levels. Those with the highest level of fitness were found to have a lower incidence of chronic disease compared with the lowest fitness level.

The eight chronic conditions considered in the analysis were Alzheimer’s disease, cancer of the colon or lung, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus, and ischemic heart disease.

Researchers found that even a modest increase in fitness could translate into marked reduction of chronic conditions in older age. And that this level of health improvement could be accomplished in just 6 months with 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise.

That’s only about 20 minutes of exercise a day. That isn’t a lot. Especially when you consider that it can delay chronic health conditions.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be as highly functioning as possible up to the end. And since I currently exercise about 330 minutes per week, I for one am looking forward to lightening up! (Just kidding.)

“Midlife Fitness and the Development of Chronic Conditions Later in Life.” Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(17):1-8.