Not exercising is worse than smoking, diabetes or heart disease finds study

A new study shows that not exercising could be as bad for the health as smoking, heart disease and diabetes.

The study was published in the latest issue of the JAMA Network Open journal. For this the researchers followed up health, exercise and lifestyle data of 122,007 participants over 23 years to reach these conclusions. Women seemed to benefit more in terms of health when they included exercise in their routines. In addition people of all ages benefited in terms of health when they exercised regularly.

Image Credit: Vovaklak / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Vovaklak / Shutterstock

The participants of this study went through health tests at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic between 1991 and 2014. One of the senior authors of the study, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Wael Jaber explained that participants who were “unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test” seemed to have a poorer outcome when it came to all cause death rates compared to those who had diabetes, smoked or were hypertensive. He called these results as most “pronounced” and “objective” than even seen before and also said that they were “surprising”.

According to the researchers it is well known that being sedentary maybe harmful for health but this is the first time a study has shown that not exercising could be worse than smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure and even “end-stage disease”. Persons who did not exercise, they explain, had a 500 percent raised risk of death compared to those who exercised. Those who got minimal exercise also had a 390 percent raised risk of death, they noted compared to those who regularly exercised. The risk of dying was twice as much among those who fared poorly on the treadmill compared to those who had kidney failure on dialysis.

Jaber explained that some are “ultra exercisers” who tend to push their bodies to extremes. It has been believed that extremes might be bad for health. Jaber said that they found that there is no “ceiling for the benefit of exercise.” This means that even “ultra exercisers” have a lower risk of dying compared to those who do not exercise.

The authors write, “Cardiorespiratory fitness is inversely associated with long-term mortality with no observed upper limit of benefit. Extremely high aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest survival and was associated with benefit in older patients and those with hypertension.”

The researchers noted that whole people of all ages and both genders benefitted from exercise, women benefited more than men. Jaber said that being sedentary now should be considered to be “a disease that has a prescription, which is called exercise.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 23 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise per week.

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