Non-smokers can no longer smugly lord their decreased mortality over smokers, unless they also have a high level of cardiovascular fitness. A new study has revealed that a sedentary lifestyle could be the most deadly way you could possibly live, even more so than smokers or those with diabetes.
How much exercise do you get per week? Are you one of the many office-workers who comes home to watch Netflix after work, looking at your dismal step counter for the day and thinking that one day you'll have to start exercising more? Well, the bad news for those people is simple: you're on the path to an early death.
A newly released study followed 122,007 participants over the course of 23 years, collecting health, fitness and lifestyle data to reach its pretty incredible results.
While it's not news to anyone that exercise is a necessity for a healthy life, or that not exercising can increase your risk of death, the extent of this fact is pretty amazing. In fact exercise is more important than other better-known mortality factors such as smoking, coronary artery disease and diabetes.
Cardio is lame. At best, you're forced to trudge along some winding route only to end up where you started. At worst, a machine makes you manically swing your limbs in vague arc-like motions for 30 minutes. But it's also good for you, so what's the best cardio workout you can get if you only have 15 minutes?
Unlike similar studies, this one doesn't pinpoint an 'ideal' amount of exercise - in fact it says that there's no upper limit when it comes to the benefit of exercise, with mortality risk decreasing as fitness level increased.
The study mentions previous research that had implied a high level of cardio-based exercise could actually cause damage to the body, but points out that these studies relied on self-reporting rather than objective data from fitness tests as was used in this instance.
Interestingly, women are slightly more likely to benefit from increased cardiovascular fitness, but the benefit remains the same through all age groups. For those who were in the top tier of fitness, a more pronounced advantage was evident in older people and those with hypertension.
Of course with a study as broad as this, not every individual factor can be accounted for - as we all know, correlation doesn't always equal causation. However with 65.3 per cent of Australian adults living a sedentary lifestyle or having a low level of fitness according to the Heart Foundation, it's probably a good idea to be aiming to increase your level of cardiovascular fitness.
While we won't all achieve 'elite' levels of fitness like the top performers in this study, having a good level of fitness, especially as you age, can definitely do wonders for your health.