Regular exercise is, hands down, one of the best actions you can take to lengthen your life, according to a new, longitudinal study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For the study, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic medical center analyzed data from more than 122,000 patients who underwent exercise stress tests between 1991 and 2014. During this type of test, patients walk or run on a treadmill at increasingly quicker speeds while doctors monitor their heart activity. The tests allow doctors to measure how a patient’s heart functions when it is physically taxed.
Researchers tracked the patients in the study for an average of eight years after the initial test to find out whether better results on the stress test led to longer lifespans. And they found significant benefits to performing well on the test.
Participants who performed better on the stress test were significantly more likely to live longer. And there was no upper limit: Those who demonstrated extremely high aerobic fitness survived significantly longer than other participants, even if they were older or experienced high blood pressure.
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Compared with patients who performed at the lowest levels, the top performers were 80 percent less likely to die. In fact, scoring poorly on the stress test was more harmful to participants’ health than smoking, diabetes, coronary artery disease or high blood pressure.
This latest study adds even more data to the body of evidence that clearly demonstrates exercise is really good for us. Kids who exercise for at least an hour each day perform better in school . People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience cognitive decline in their later years. And there is clear evidence that exercise helps to improve the symptoms of depression .
But what if you have a tough time getting to the gym or getting outside for that daily walk? A body of data show that social support can be one of the most important factors in continuing an exercise program. What does that mean, exactly?
Finding emotional support is an important key to starting and sticking with an exercise program. This is that person who meets you at 6 a.m. so that you can run together, or encourages you to head to the gym even though you have had a long day.
Practical support, such as getting a ride to the gym or receiving new exercise gear as a gift, does not inspire people to start a new exercise routine, but it can encourage them to continue one.
And the evidence shows that negative comments – people who worry that you are “doing too much” or encourage you to stay home for a movie instead of being active – will actually discourage you from exercising.
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The take-home message: Finding a way to incorporate exercise into your life is essential for health and well-being. Having a buddy who shares your exercise goals and encourages you are key components to getting started and sticking with it.