The Doctor’s Note: Is exercise worth the commitment?

Exercise is important, but often we can’t find the time or energy to do some kind of exercise on a regular basis. A recent study provides evidence that not exercising can be worse for your health than having diabetes, heart disease or smoking. If you have a chronic condition, exercise can be as beneficial as the medications you take.

A large study involving more than 120,000 patients and lasting over 20 years confirmed that being physically fit leads to a lower risk of death from any cause. This study was unique since it was the first large scale study at a medical center where every patient was exercise tested, and not just asked to report their fitness level. The results showed that the benefits from exercise were seen across the population, and continued to increase as the amount of regular exercise increased.

Regular exercise to sustain high fitness levels was shown to be especially helpful in older patients and in those with high blood pressure. “Use it or lose it” is a common phrase we all say, and this study suggests that it is accurate when talking about our fitness level and how long we may live.

Before starting an exercise program, check with your physician first to be sure it is safe for you to exercise. Your physician can help determine the best type of exercise for you to achieve your fitness goals. We were made to be active throughout life, so renew your commitment to staying fit as you age. Your return on this investment will last a lifetime.

Michael Atwood, M.D., CHIE, is the vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. He is a board certified family physician and an American Academy of Family Physicians fellow.

Source: JAMA Netw Open. 2018; 1(6):e183605. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.3605

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