Beyond Exercise – Fitness Will Save Your Life


There is a lot written about “exercise”. We all know we need to exercise, eat right and control our weight – but most of us don’t do any of those things with enough regularity to change either our shape or our health. If we did 66% of us wouldn’t be overweight and chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes wouldn’t be epidemic.

In the May 20, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association researchers in Japan analyzed data from 33 previous studies that included a total of 102,980 subjects whose fitness had been measured. They wanted to see how fitness related to developing cardiovascular disease or preventing death.

What is fitness?

Fitness is defined as the “capability of the body to distribute inhaled oxygen to muscle tissue during increased physical effort”.

Ever get out of breath when you climb a flight of stairs or try running for the first time? That happens because your body is not able to deliver enough oxygen to your working muscles to do their work so your breathing increases to increase the supply of oxygen to your muscles. If you aren’t fit enough for the task, you will have to stop on the stairs and rest until you “catch your breath” or you will have to stop running and walk until your breath returns. The researchers in this study called this “cardiorespiratory fitness”.

The cool thing about fitness and the body’s ability to use oxygen is that it improves with training. If you exert yourself with enough regularity your body gets more efficient at using oxygen.

So, if at first you couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without getting winded, with regular practice you will become able to climb them effortlessly without any breathlessness. Runners don’t just walk out the door able to run marathons. They have to train over many months to build up the cardiorespiratory fitness to be able to finish 24.6 miles.

What the Researchers Found

The researchers measured cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in metabolic equivalent (MET) units. Simply stated, MET units measured the amount of exertion involved – the higher the number the more strenuous the exertion. Subjects with the highest MET scores were deemed the most fit. They divided the subjects into three groups:

  1. MET scores less than 7.9 – the least fit
  2. MET scores 7.9 to 10.8 – intermediate
  3. MET scores 10.9 or greater – the most fit

Group # 1, the least fit, had a 56% greater risk for cardiovascular disease and a 70% greater risk of death from all causes. Group # 1’s risk was 47% greater for cardiovascular disease and 40% greater for risk of death when compared to Group # 2.

Researchers point out that fitness is rarely measured in clinical practice and describe adequate fitness as:

  • a 50 year old man being able to walk 4 miles per hour
  • a 50 year old woman being able to walk 3 miles per hour.

Beyond Exercise toward Fitness

At the root of most of the disease and premature death in this country (if not the world) is lack of fitness. Looked at from a certain perspective, fitness can be considered a fountain of youth. According to the results of this study, it prevents both disease and death.

It’s not a pill, powder or potion. It’s completely natural. It’s a birthright. It’s a human activity that doesn’t cost a dime but pays huge dividends. It doesn’t matter how you achieve it, the only thing required is that you exert yourself.

I think the human body’s ability to remodel itself and strengthen itself in response to exertion is a wonderful miracle that brings healing and life. If there isn’t some part of your day devoted to increasing your cardiorespiratory fitness, you are missing out on a powerful life force.

You won’t live forever, but you can live longer and better if you will go for this before it’s too late. Based on this study it will extend your life and improve your health.

Note: If you have not been physically active do not begin a vigorous exercise program without checking with a health professional first.

This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat. For that please seek direct care from a health professional.

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