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Mortality Linked to Physical Activity Levels in Unfit Individuals

by Matrix Admin | Aug 01, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – The least-fit segment of the population has twice the mortality risk of even those who are just a bit more in shape, according to a study published in the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

A research team from Stanford University led by Victor F. Froelicher, M.D., and Jonathan Myers, Ph.D., FACSM, performed exercise tests and followed more than 4,300 subjects from 1986 to 2006, none of whom had a history of heart disease. Fitness and physical activity levels were measured using treadmill tests and questionnaires, and mortality rates were tracked during the 20-year study period.

Sandra Mandic, Ph.D., and the research team from Stanford analyzed the results, and found that the mortality rate for the least-fit individuals was twice that of the second least-fit group, and more than four times the rate of the most-fit group. Fitness was the strongest predictor of mortality in this group of healthy individuals.

The study suggests that reduced recent physical activity, rather than differences in health status, contributes to the striking difference in mortality rates between the least-fit individuals and those who are just a bit more fit. Nearly two-thirds of the least-fit individuals were not meeting the minimum recommended amount of physical activity (at least 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes per day, five days per week). Yet, this group achieves the greatest health benefits from increasing fitness.

“Given the considerable survival benefit associated with improving fitness in the least-fit group, increasing fitness through regular physical activity should be a priority in unfit individuals,” Mandic said. “Health professionals should consider a sedentary lifestyle and poor fitness as treatable and major risk factors.”

The study’s findings are consistent with Exercise is Medicine™, a multi-organizational effort to make physical activity a standard part of the health care paradigm. The program encourages health care providers to talk to their patients about physical activity and, conversely, for patients to talk to their physician about how to get active.

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

NOTE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 41, No. 8, pages 1573-1579) or to speak with the author or an expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 127 or 133. Visit ACSM online at www.acsm.org.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of theAmerican College of Sports Medicine.

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