Aerobic fitness is your best healthy ageing predictor. Should it be the focus of your health investment?

by | Jan 31, 2022 | Exercise, FESS, Healthy Living

January 31, 2022

What would you say if I told you that there’s a health component that is more important for healthy ageing than the COMBINED effects of smoking, obesity, and  diabetes?? Yet, the average GP is unlikely to mention this to you, much less actually test it. Could they be missing one of the most important assessments they should be taking at your check up? and consequently, not giving you some of the best health advice you could be getting?? Ok, enough with the cryptic questions. This is going to be a short but powerful article, because I know you don’t have time to waste. The answer to these questions is aerobic fitness. That’s right, your aerobic fitness is your best predictor of your physical capacity as you age!

If you want to age well, you need a body that can allow you to do the things you want to do… the activities and experiences that you have planned to enjoy! A key component of this is aerobic fitness… not only does it allow you to do more because you are “fitter”, but the physiological changes due to the type of training required to improve fitness also have very important effects on your overall health, from your hormonal health, to your metabolic, and cardiovascular health! it basically keeps your body younger!!

So your aerobic fitness is a very important investment into your health bank! Think of it as a key component of your superannuation… your health superannuation! so, how much have you got in your health bank right now? and do you know how much you should have at your retirement age to ensure you have enough to allow you the life you want to live in retirement?

Not sure how, or if, you should tackle this? Read on!

Aerobic Fitness is your best health investement

The graph below shows the highly significant effect that cardio-respiratory fitness (CRF, or aerobic fitness) has on premature death, particularly with its effect compared to other more commonly discussed health issues. I am truly baffled that while this SHOULD be common knowledge to health and medical professionals, they rarely apply it as part of their assessment or targeted treatment!

Aerobic fitness is your best health predictor
Attributable fractions (%) for all cause deaths in over 53000 participants in the Aerobics Centre Longitudinal Study. This is an estimate of the number of deaths in a population that would have been avoided if a specific risk factor had been absent. That is, if all smokers were non-smokers or all inactive persons were
getting 30 minutes of walking on at least 5 days of the week.

Effect of increasing fitness

Sure, you have been advised by your health professional that you should introduce physical activity in your life… that you should get out for a walk or two during the week. The graph below shows us two critical things about this advice. First is the obvious difference in protective effect of general physical activity vs fitness. You are busy, and ‘exercise time’ is hard to schedule, so the last thing we want is for you to not get the best possible return on your time investment! This data show the multiplied protective effect that increasing your fitness has on your health compared to just ‘being active’. While your low level general incidental activity is important, having a focused and safe approach to improving your fitness will reap huge returns on your investment.

Aerobic fitness is your best health predictor

Estimated relative risk of cardiovascular disease by fitness and physical activity.
Williams, PT (2001) MSSE 33:754-761.

Second, if you don’t know where to start, this data show that just getting underway will give you great returns. In fact, as the graph shows, even if you shift the needle from being very inactive or unfit, to being just in the lowest quarter of either ‘active’ or ‘fit people’ you achieve the greatest return on your investment! For example if you are in the lowest 10% of either ‘active’ or ‘fit’ people, you get very little protective effect; but if you move to the 25th percentile in activity levels, you get about a 10% protective effect, but a whopping 40% protective effect for being in the 25th percentile in FITNESS levels!!

Take home points about value of aerobic fitness

Let me summarise the point I’m trying to  make: While being generally active (such as going for regular easy walks, etc) is good for your health, spending time getting FITTER will give you multiplied returns, in body composition, general capacity, and primarily in health, so you can get the most out of life for as long as possible! So if you are short on time, and have high expectations on your investments, then this makes a lot of sense.

NOW, if you are concerned about increasing the intensity of your exercise due to health issues, or risk of injury, please get in touch with us. We have proven systems to improve your fitness in a safe and progressive manner.

A simple test on a stationary bike in one of our clinics with one of our qualified exercise scientists or physiologists can inform you about your current fitness so you know how much you currently have ‘in the bank’ and help you plan your future training to make sure you are investing appropriately for your future!

I’d like to thank Associate Professor Lance Dalleck from Western State Colorado university for presenting to the iNform team and sharing his expertise on this topic.

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