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NMU 110 – High Aerobic Fitness Decreases Risk of Death to Significant Degree

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 110 (Oct 25, 2018)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: High Aerobic Fitness Decreases Risk of Death to Significant Degree

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association (October 2018)


We all know that having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, being overweight, elevated blood sugar (glucose) are risk factors for heart disease and some cancers.  But, over the years there has been much debate and controversy about the tangible effects of fitness and sedentary lifestyle on the risk of these diseases, and as well as on longevity itself.  Well, a very large human study, published in JAMA in October 2018, has provided compelling evidence to show that the higher a person’s cardiorespiratory fitness level (aerobic-endurance fitness) the lower is their risk of dying from all causes, or what researches call all-cause mortality (or death from all causes).

In the largest study of its kind undertaken to date over 122,000 patients underwent exercise treadmill testing to establish their cardiorespiratory fitness level. With an average follow-up of about eight and a half years, the results clearly showed that the more aerobically fit a person was, the lower the was their risk of dying from all causes, or stated more positively, the better were their chances of survival. In fact, in the most highly aerobically fit individuals, whose fitness level was at or above 2.5 standard deviations higher than what is the average for that age group and gender, showed the lowest risk for all-cause mortality compared to all other groups.

The study suggested very strongly that the more aerobically fit you become, the greater is the benefit with respect to survival, and this was even true in subjects over 70 years old and in those with a history of high blood pressure. The researchers conclude that individuals with high blood pressure show an important survival benefit if they include aerobic fitness in their lifestyle plan. Conversely, the study also sheds light on the risk of being sedentary or being aerobically unfit. The findings of the study showed that poor aerobic fitness was a greater risk of death than traditional heart disease risk factors, diabetes, and smoking.  When you hear someone say that a sedentary lifestyle or sitting is the new smoking, it really does have merit.

So, even if you are not overweight, or have major risk factors for disease, such as high cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar etc., simply being sedentary or unfit from an aerobic standpoint, puts you at significant risk for premature death, compared to more fit individuals of the same age and gender. And this remains true even in older subjects. The bottom line is that any personalized wellness plan intended to maximize your longevity, maintaining optimal function of your body and mind, and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative diseases, has to include regular aerobic exercise training. That is the only way to become aerobically fit and maintain it. And the more aerobically fit you become (by pushing yourself a little) the greater is the benefit with respect to long-term survival.

So, if you have fallen off the wagon lately, it’s time to get back on that treadmill, elliptical machine, rowing machine, stair climber, stationary bike or get back to jogging, power walking, skipping rope, aerobic classes etc., whatever aerobic program you can commit to, and make it happen 3-7 times per week. The benefits to longevity, quality of life and quality of health are just too important to ignore for any health-conscious person.

So, let’s kick it up a notch and make it happen and I’ll see you next time.


Mandsager K, Harb S, Cremer P. Association of cardiorespiratory fitness with long-term mortality among adults undergoing exercise treadmill testing. JAMA, Oct. 19, 2018.


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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