Not exercising may be worse than smoking

Two women running holding weights

It’s a well-known fact that exercise is good for your health. But unfortunately, knowing doesn’t always translate into doing. If the extent of your exercise routine involves getting off the couch for a snack, you might want to give exercise another look. It could add years to your life.

A study found that the health of those who don’t exercise is similar or worse to those with a major disease like hypertension, diabetes or even being a smoker.

Researchers found that high levels of fitness is associated with longer, healthier lives.

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The study included more than 122,000 patients from 1991 to 2014 who underwent treadmill testing and whose mortality rates were later recorded. According to the study, people who exercised regularly had increased cardiorespiratory fitness, which researchers say correlated to long-term mortality. Those with the highest level of aerobic fitness had the longest lifespan. These benefits could even be seen in older patients and those with high blood pressure.

Riki Rutz, PA-C, primary care physician assistant at Nebraska Medicine — Elkhorn Health Center

This is good news because it tells us that we can improve our health and decrease our risk of dying early just by exercising. There are risk factors we can’t change like age or family history, but exercise is actually something we have control over. We have known for years that a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers, and now we know that it is also associated with a shorter overall lifespan.

The study also looked at elite exercisers and found that these individuals do not have a higher risk of death or atrial fibrillation as reported by a previous study recently reported in the news. While any type of exercise is better than no exercise at all, this study found that a high level of aerobic exercise that gets your heart rate up reaped the most results. To get these benefits, you should shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to more intense aerobic exercise five days a week. If you’re normally a walker, to get your heart rate up this would mean walking at a fast pace at which it is difficult to maintain a conversation.

Some people are turned off by the thought of exercising because they think they need to join the gym. If going to the gym isn’t your thing, you don’t need to. The best type of exercise is something that fits into your lifestyle and is something you enjoy and can maintain long term. Figure out what works for you. Maybe it’s finding an exercise buddy to make yourself accountable, using exercise videos or coming up with another routine that you can do from home.

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, you should talk to your provider first before beginning a moderate to more intense exercise program.

It’s all about creating balance in your life and living a healthy lifestyle for the long run. And as a primary care provider, that’s our goal – to keep your health on track through prevention and by making sure you’re living the healthiest lifestyle you can.