Physical inactivity pegged almost as dangerous as smoking

Non-smokers may be under the impression that they are at less of a risk of various disease, but those who don’t exercise are almost at similar risk levels of untimely death, a new study has revealed.

The 45-year long study has also revealed that physical inactivity or low physical capacity is more deadlier than high blood pressure or high cholesterol and these findings indicate that there is a clear benefit of exercise and that there should be no excuse of not working out for a few hours every week.

For the study, researchers recruited 792 men from the “Study of Men Born in 1913”, a representative sample of 50 year old men in Gothenburg recruited in 1963. The study was designed to investigate risk factors for cardiovascular disease and mortality. In 1967, at 54 years of age, the 792 men did an exercise test. Of those, 656 men also did a maximum exercise test in which they pushed themselves to the limit. The remaining men were excluded from the maximum exercise test because they had a health condition that could make it unsafe. Maximal oxygen uptake, called VO2 max, was measured in a subpopulation of the 656 men using ergospirometry.

Researchers explain that VO2 max is a test used to evaluate aerobic capacity and higher the figure, the more physically fit a person is. After the initial examination in 1967, the men were followed up until 2012, at the age of 100 years. Several physical examinations were performed, about one every 10 years.

To analyse the association between predicted VO2 max and mortality the men were divided into three groups (tertiles) ranging from low to high: 2.00 l/min, 2.26 l/min, and 2.56 l/min. The researchers found that each tertile increase in predicted VO2 max was associated with a 21% lower risk of death over 45 years of follow up, and after adjusting for other risk factors (smoking, blood pressure and serum cholesterol).

Researchers were able to show to low aerobic capacity was associated with increased rates of death and the next challenge for humans is how to increase the physical activity.

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