New research finds physical activity ranks just behind smoking as death risk for middle-aged men.
A new study just published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology is saying the number two cause of death in middle-aged men is low physical activity, and it can be treated by simply getting in good physical condition. According to a report on eurekalert.com, a representative sample of subjects aged 50 were selected in 1963, from the Study of Men Born in 1913, in Gothenenburg, Sweden, with the intention of looking at the risk factors of that age group.
Four years later, a group of 656 men from the original 792, were given a maximum exercise test. Those excluded from the test were found to have health conditions that would make the testing unsafe. A sub-group of those participants were measured for their maximum oxygen uptake, known as VO2 max.
At the time, the ergospirometry test that measured VO2 max was difficult to conduct on large populations, so the researchers tested the sub-group and derived a formula to calculate the results for the remaining participants.
“VO2 max is a measure of aerobic capacity and the higher the figure, the more physically fit a person is,” said Dr. Per Ladenvall, a researcher in the Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, and lead author on the study.
The group of men were given follow-up examinations over the next 50 years, until 2012, with physical exams being done at ten-year intervals. The data for the deaths of the participating men were obtained from the National Cause of Death Registry.
After placing the men into one of three categories, called tertiles, according to their VO2 max readings, the research team analyzed the risk of death and found that for each increase in the groupings, the men’s risk of death over 45 years of follow up was 21 percent lower. The results were adjusted for other risk factors, such as smoking, blood pressure issues, and cholesterol numbers.
“We found that low aerobic capacity was associated with increased rates of death. The association between exercise capacity and all-cause death was graded, with the strongest risk in the tertile with the lowest maximum aerobic capacity,” continued Dr. Ladenvall. “The effect of aerobic capacity on risk of death was second only to smoking.”
“We have come a long way in reducing smoking. The next major challenge is to keep us physically active and also to reduce physical inactivity, such as prolonged sitting.”