Study: Fit 50-year olds less likely to face chronic disease

Reuters reports that a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that fit 50-year-olds are less likely to be afflicted with chronic disease as they get older than those who are sedentary.

Dr. Jarett Berry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center led the study. Berry explained the findings of the research, “We see truly reduced chronic disease, rather than just delaying the inevitable.” He added that the study also makes the case for more vigorous exercise. Berry states, “We know from prior literature that higher-intensity exercise tends to translate into more fitness.”

The Washington Post reports in “The Checkup” blog that “the strongest connection between fitness and chronic disease burden was found among those with the lowest levels of midlife fitness (i.e. those in the bottom fifth of the group, fitness-wise, had the heaviest load of chronic disease near the end of their lives).”

From that finding, the researchers “found promise, suggesting that those with low fitness levels who make modest improvements (the equivalent of six months of moderate-intensity exercise, 150 minutes per week) might lighten their future burden of chronic conditions by 20 percent,” according to the article.

However, the blog also notes that “the authors acknowledge several limitations in their work, including the fact that the participants in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study were in a socioeconomic group – with higher income and better education – that generally enjoys better fitness and health than the general population.”

HealthDay also quoted Dr. Jarett Berry, who said, “not only do the people with higher fitness live a little bit longer, the onset of chronic disease occurs even later, so that the amount of time you spend in your life with chronic diseases is compressed into a smaller period of time.”

MedPage Today notes that “limitations of the study included its reliance on administrative data and the relatively healthy participants included in the cohort, and the lack of other information such as dietary habits.” The article also stated that “in an invited commentary, Diane Bild, MD, of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md., pointed out that genetics also plays a role in successful aging and longevity.”

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