More Positive Findings for that Magic Pill: Exercise

We have known for a long time that exercise has tremendous benefits.  From the classic positive effects on health risks like high cholesterol to more recent benefits such as the possibility that exercise during pregnancy may actually result in smarter offspring (summarized in one of my previous articles), the benefits to exercise seem to have no bounds.

We learned from the classic Framingham Heart Study that patient characteristics such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity increased their risk of having cardiovascular disease.  We also know that exercise can improve a patient’s blood pressure, cholesterol or body mass index, thus decreasing their cardiovascular risk.  But what happens if a patient does exercise but still has all of those risk factors?  Is exercise wasted on that person?

A recent study out of Curtin University in Australia suggests those who exercise, even those with persistent blood pressure, cholesterol and/or waistline issues are more likely to live longer than those who are sedentary.  In this study, the researchers divided a group of patients into three separate categories based on activity level.  The three categories were basically in the range of 1) Couch Potato 2) Some Activity 3) Regular Exercise.  Not surprisingly, the Couch Potatoes were twice as likely to have died from a cardiac event than those in the Some Exercise group and six times more likely to have died than those in the Frequent Exercise group.  What was surprising, however, is that even when controlling for the various cardiovascular risk factors among the groups, those patients with significant issues with their blood pressure, cholesterol and or waistline still received benefit from the exercise.

The encouraging thing here is that even if your cholesterol, weight or blood pressure numbers are not normalizing, you can feel assured that your efforts are still paying dividends.  Patients suffering from hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and weight control issues were much more likely to be alive in 15 years if they exercised, despite their health issues.  The old saying, “speed kills”, perhaps should be replaced with, “sedentary kills”.

If you are sedentary, consult with your physician to make certain you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program.  If so, make a pledge to yourself and your health: “I am choosing to live a healthy lifestyle today.”  Good luck!  Good health!!