Tuesday August 28,2012
By Jo Willey
A GENTLE stroll every day could save your life by protecting against a host of chronic killer diseases, experts say.
Just a little light exercise can stave off heart failure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
And it is never too late to start. Stepping up exercise in your 50s can have major long-term benefits, the study found.
People who increased their fitness by just 20 per cent in middle age lowered their chances of developing the chronic diseases even decades later by 20 per cent.
In fact, introducing a gentle walk, housework, gardening or DIY into your daily routine from the age of 50 can slash the risk of developing these deadly illnesses at 65.
Dr Jarett Berry, a senior author of the study, said: “We’ve determined that being fit is not just delaying the inevitable, but it is actually lowering the onset of chronic disease in the final years of life.”
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Researchers assessed the fitness levels of people in midlife and then followed them up 26 years later. The people who were fittest originally went on to have the lowest incidence of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas, studied data of 14,726 healthy men and 3,944 healthy woman with an average age of 49 who were enrolled in the Cooper Centre Longitudinal Study, which contains more than 250,000 medical records from over 40 years.
Then they examined the patients’ Medicare health claims from aged 70 to 85 and looked for evidence of eight chronic conditions – heart failure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon or lung cancer.
Patients with the highest level of midlife fitness had a lower incidence of the chronic conditions compared with the people with the lowest midlife fitness.
The researchers, whose study is published online in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, measured fitness in Mets, short for metabolic equivalent of task, a measure of energy expenditure.
Walking the dog is rated between three and six Mets, running is six or higher. The authors wrote: “A one to two Met improvement in fitness at 50 was associated with a 20 per cent reduction in the incidence of chronic conditions at 65 and older.
“Those with higher midlife fitness appeared to spend a greater proportion of their final five years of life with a lower burden of chronic conditions.”
June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s never too late to get active, and 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week will help to keep your heart healthy.”
Research earlier this month showed that two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity a week helps suppress inflammation which is believed to contribute to heart disease.