Fitness regimen helps older men live longer, say researchers

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(NaturalNews) Researchers and experts have said that exercise and increased physical activity is good for the body at any age, but new data suggests in particular that regardless of a man's age, cardiovascular fitness can add more years of life.

A new study of men over 70 years old with high blood pressure found that those who were able to push themselves harder during exercise had just half the risk of dying, compared to study participants who were the least fit. That means the benefits of exercising are not merely limited to younger or middle-aged men (and women), researchers said.

"The population is aging dramatically, so it's important that we ask questions about patients who are older," Charles Faselis, lead author of the study and an internist at the Washington, DC, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, told the Reuters.

In the study, which has been published in the journal Hypertension, Faselis and his research team examined exercise tests previously performed for 2,153 men who were patients at the Washington, D.C. and Palo Alto, California VA Medical Centers. All of the participants were at least 70 and had taken the test either as a part of a routine checkup or to find out whether any cardiac vessels were clogged.

As Reuters noted further:

The men were split into four groups based on the highest level at which they could exercise. The categories were based on a unit of fitness known as metabolic equivalents, or METs.

The lowest category - "very-low fit" - comprised men who could achieve between two and four METs; "low-fit" were those who achieved 4.1 to six METs; and "moderate-fit" was between 6.1 and eight METs. The men in the best shape could achieve more than eight METs and were considered "high-fit."

'Higher in fitness means lower in mortality rates'

Faselis and his researchers took into account additional factors that had the potential of affecting the final results, like body mass index, heart disease and medications for heart disease. Researchers said they followed the research subjects for an average length of nine years, examining their rise of dying. During the time of the study, about 1,000 of the participants died.

Researchers found that when compared to the subjects with the least ability to exercise - those who belonged to the low-fit group - the subjects in the next-highest category of low-fit had an 18 percent lower risk of dying. Men who were considered moderately fit had a 36 percent lower risk of passing away; men in the high-fit category had a 48 percent lower risk of death.

In other words, Reuters reported, for every 100 people placed in the very low-fit category who would die, the high-fit group saw only 52 subjects die, according to Peter Kokkoinos, a co-author of the study and a researcher in cardiology at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

"As we go higher in fitness, we go lower in mortality risk and death rates," Kokkinos told Reuters Health.

Oldest research participant was over 90

The research team said it wasn't clear that improved fitness actually prolonged some of the men's lives, but after they adjusted for the possibility that sickness prevented some subjects from being able to exercise the link between METs and mortality rates was still valid.

Faselis says that being fit does not mean having the capacity to run marathons or spend hour upon hour in a gym. In fact, the team says, people over the age of 70 who have high blood pressure can actually lower their risk of dying just by walking for a half-hour most days of the week.

"We aren't asking people to do things that are out of this world" in order to bolster fitness, Faselis told Reuters. Just that small amount of walking is "very doable even in this elderly population," he added.

As with any new fitness program, however, it is important to check with a healthcare professional before beginning.

"It doesn't matter what age you are - fitness works," Kokkinos said.

"People think, 'I'm 60, I'm over the hill.' But it doesn't matter," he said. Indeed, he added, the oldest study participant was 92 years old, he told Reuters Health.

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