Fitness Helps Fight Heart Disease & Cancer, New Study Says

A new study from The Cooper Institute, with researchers from Harvard and Stanford, examined the relationship between fitness and mortality. Researchers found that higher fitness levels reduced the rate of heart disease and cancer related deaths in men.

Over the past 50 years, death rates from heart disease and stroke have dropped by 67% and 77% due to lower tobacco usage, effective medical techniques, and medications. Despite advances in disease prevention, detection, and treatment when it comes to cancer and heart disease, they found that fitness still plays a significant positive role in reducing mortality rate.

“The findings emphasize how important it is for us to be physically fit – even today, when medical diagnosis and treatment have advanced so much compared with a few decades ago,” said senior author Dr. I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study examined two groups of 47,862 men over 50 years. The first, from 1971 to 1992, saw a 47% lower death rate with high fitness and a 40% lower death rate with moderate fitness. The second, from 1992 to 2014, saw a 48% lower death rate with high fitness and a 24% lower death rate with moderate fitness.

This study reaffirms the results of a previously conducted Cooper Center study from 1989 that examined both men and women. The more fit participants were, the lower their mortality rate was. This prompted the American Heart Association to add physical inactivity as a heart disease risk factor in 1992.

“Modern medicine alone cannot protect you from unhealthy lifestyle choices. Physical fitness still matters.” said Steve Farrell, PhD, Senior Investigator at The Cooper Institute and lead author on the paper.

Men and women are encouraged to improve cardiorespiratory fitness by following the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines, recommending 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise along with 2 days of strength training weekly.

Dalia Faheid

Dalia Faheid is a writer who has studied and worked in media since 2014. She pursued a BA in Emerging Media and Communication at UTD. She has experience in journalism, marketing, and technical writing. If you have a story idea for her, you can email Dalia at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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