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Don't Just Sit There, Do Something! Part 11 How Fit Is Fit

Posted Aug 28 2012 3:00am
So, how may of you got off your a-- over the last 7 days since I wrote Part 10 of this series ?  Yeah, that's what I thought.  What's it going to take to get us off our collective butts?  More importantly, as my kids ask, how much?  In other words, how fit do we need to be?  We recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, essentially 30 minutes most days of the week.  Of course, more is better, in both intensity & time.  But that's just one way to assess physical activity.  Sure, doing something is better than just sitting there.  What we really need is that carrot dangling in front of us, be it some event for which we are training or some goal/journey we want to achieve.

As I noted previously, have you noticed the same people putting in their time religiously on the treadmill while reading a magazine or watching TV?  Undeniably, their attention is divided.  It's near impossible to read & comprehend (or watch & comprehend) when pushing at a tough pace (well, anyway, I can't do it).  While I might watch some TV while I recover between sprints, I guarantee you that I'm not watching anything but the seconds tick by when I'm in the zone during a sprint.  

Again, don't get me wrong.  Every study concludes that there's benefit to be gained just by doing something , whether leisurely, moderately or intensely.  But consider my home bound patient last week who spins here little cycle for 5-10 minutes/day; she really hasn't improved beyond that stage because she hasn't pushed herself.  Why?  No one told her to do so!  No one gave her a (new) goal!  When she first started, 5-10 minutes might as well have been 5-10 hours.  But she's been stuck in a rut for the past several months, essentially cruising along at a performance plateau.

If you're still with me, a prospective observational study was published early online in Archives of Internal Medicine in which the authors concluded that cardiorespiratory fitness (as measured by metabolic equivalents (METs) during an exercise treadmill test) in healthy middle-aged adults was linked to better health & lower risk of chronic diseases over a quarter century later.  They arrived at their conclusion by analyzing 18,670 disease-free participants avg 46-52yo at baseline in the Cooper Clinic Longitudinal Study and again upon becoming eligible to receive Medicare benefits at 65yo and beyond.

Those men and women who were the most fit at 14.1 & 11.0 METs, respectively, compared to the least fit at 8.5 & 6.4 METs, respectively, had lowest risk for any one or more chronic diseases: ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer disease, and colon+lung cancer.  
Bottom line:  just walking on the treadmill is better than sitting in front of the TV.  But pushing your abilities to reach 11-14+ METs leads to health dividends that pay out a quarter century later.  So start investing in your health and keep your goal in mind: healthy aging!
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