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Fitness Levels Linked to Longevity

By now, most folks know that heart health requires regular exercise (even if they don’t translate this knowledge into action). New research suggests just how much exertion is needed to reap the benefits. Researchers from Rush University examined the exercise stress tests of over 5,000 women and found that those whose exercise capacity was less than 85 percent of their age-specific maximum were twice as likely to die of any cause during the eight year study.

This means that the more you are able to exercise (e.g. the longer and faster you can jog), the longer you are likely to live. Fortunately, exercise capacity is something you can improve, managing your weight and building strength and endurance over time.

Exercise capacity was gauged by how much oxygen the body metabolized (a measurement called MET). While fitness buffs may be able to tell when they’re “in the zone,” either by measuring heart-rate or through an intuitive understanding of their own limits, others may want to consult the age-specific target MET guide below.

While the idea of improving fitness for a longer life is hardly new, this is the first study to establish age-specific exercise guidelines for women. “That’s important because we’ve never known about women. Everything has been done with men,” emphasized study lead Dr. Martha Gulati. What’s more, as mentioned in a previous DNN, nearly half of adult women under 50 say they never engage in vigorous physical exercise.

This research demonstrates that to cut the risk of premature death, women need to step up their exertion levels. If you need some extra help to increase your intensity,try working out with a trainer. Finally, while the new dietary guidelines suggest at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, the National Weight Registry has determined that dieters most likely to maintain significant weight losses exercise an hour most days of the week.

Published October 10, 2005

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