The Lowdown on High Fitness Levels in Middle Age
By David Doolittle


You’re all too familiar with the health benefits of regular exercise. But it’s always nice to back up what you know with some cold, hard numbers, right?

Well, put a jacket on because new research from the Cooper Institute and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, both in Dallas, shows how fitness affects depression and death from heart disease in later life.

According to the study, which you can read here, folks who demonstrated a high level of fitness around age 50 had the following benefits later in life, compared to people with low fitness: 

  • 16-percent lower risk of depression;
  • 61-percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) death without depression; and
  • 56-percent lower risk of CVD death after a depression diagnosis. 

“This is a literal call to action. Texans of all ages should be engaged in recommended levels of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity,” said Eduardo Sanchez, MD, American Heart Association chief medical officer for prevention and chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “Texas physicians should be assessing the physical activity of their patients as a vital sign and counseling them to move more.” 

The research used Medicare administrative data of nearly 18,000 participants who had their cardiorespiratory fitness measured at midlife.

“The results demonstrate that aerobic fitness is important to the long-term prevention of both depression and CVD death,” the Cooper Institute said in announcing the study. “Regular exercise may also prevent cognitive decline as we age.”

Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 1 in 3 Americans each year — more than all cancers combined.


Last Updated On

July 17, 2018

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David Doolittle


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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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