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Study: Midlife Fitness Contributes to Healthy Old Age

Study: Midlife Fitness Contributes to Healthy Old Age

Fitness lowers risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, other common conditions

August 29th, 2012 by Truman Lewis of ConsumerAffairs in News

All you 40-year-old joggers and weight-lifters should be happy to hear this: a new study finds that fitness in midlife is associated with a lower risk of chronic health problems later in life.

Seems self-evident, you say? Perhaps so, but any scientist will tell you that what seems obviously true doesn't always turn out that way. So, Benjamin L. Willis, M.D., M.P.H., of the Cooper Institute, Dallas, and colleagues examined the association between midlife fitness and chronic disease outcomes later in life by linking Medicare claims with participant data from the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, a large group of individuals who were examined at the Cooper Clinic from 1970 to 2009.

Their findings: Fitness in midlife appears to be associated with a lower risk of common chronic health conditions later in life in men and women older than 65 years and enrolled in Medicare, according to their study published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

"Compared with participants with lower midlife fitness, those with higher midlife fitness appeared to spend a greater proportion of their final five years of life with a lower burden of CCs," the authors comment. 

The study of 14,726 healthy men and 3,944 healthy woman (overall median age 49 years at baseline) used eight chronic conditions (CCs) for the analysis: congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer disease, and colon or lung cancer.

"In the present study, higher fitness measured in midlife was strongly associated with a lower incidence of CCs decades later," the authors note.

Researchers suggest a moderate increase in fitness may mean a reduction in CCs in older age. 

Among those study participants who died, researchers note that higher midlife fitness appeared to be more strongly associated with a delay in the development of CCs than with survival.