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Midlife fitness leads to healthy later life

Making sure your heart and lungs get a good workout in midlife adds lengths and quality to your life, a recent study shows.

A long-term study of almost 3000 people indicated that cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF) in the middle years was associated with lower burdens of subclinical atherosclerosis and vascular stiffness, and with a lower risk of hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and mortality.

That’s a long list of problems we can avoid simply by getting on a bike on a regular basis.

The study participants, part of the major Framingham Study in the US, were followed up an average of fifteen years after the earlier assessment.

While many studies have now established the relationship between physical activity and heart health, this work suggests the benefits of exercise extend to a wide range of cardio metabolic diseases.

This study also used a new method that estimates fitness with an algorithm using readily available clinical information, such as age, sex, waist circumference, resting heart rate, and physical activity. Studies have demonstrated that the prognostic ability of this approach for CVD risk and mortality is comparable to the use of traditional fitness testing.

The study observed that individuals with high CRF have a 42% to 65% lower risk of developing hypertension over 5 to 9 years of follow-up compared with those with low CRF.

High CRF in middle-aged adults has also been associated with a 39% to 67% lower risk of developing diabetes during 5 to 17 years of follow-up.

Furthermore, studies demonstrate that highly fit individuals have a 27% to 58% lower risk of chronic kidney disease compared with their less fit counterparts.

The study team, from Boston University, also observed a lower risk of all-cause mortality in the most fit individuals compared with less fit participants.

The authors concluded that the study highlight the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity during midlife.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.