The research results here are a reminder that exercise has a meaningful effect on long-term health. Agreeing with the outcomes from many other epidemiological studies, the data here shows a significantly higher risk of mortality due to cardiovascular disease for individuals possessed of a lesser capacity for exercise. Human studies largely only show correlations between exercise and age-related disease risk, leaving open the question of the direction of causation, but the equivalent animal studies quite comprehensively demonstrate that exercise lowers risk of age-related disease. Regular exercise and maintenance of physical fitness are good for you.
Exercise is good for health and longevity, but information on women is scarce. Women generally live longer than men, so dedicated studies are needed. This study examined exercise capacity and heart function during exercise in women and their links with survival. The study included 4,714 adult women referred for treadmill exercise echocardiography because of known or suspected coronary artery disease. Most study participants were middle aged or older women: the average age was 64 and 80% were between 50 and 75.
Participants walked or ran on a treadmill, gradually increasing the intensity, and continuing until exhaustion. Images of the heart were generated during the test. Fitness was defined as a maximal workload of 10 metabolic equivalents (METs), which is equal to walking fast up four flights of stairs or very fast up three flights, without stopping. Women who achieved 10 METs or more (good exercise capacity) were compared to those achieving less than 10 METs (poor exercise capacity).
During a median follow-up of 4.6 years there were 345 cardiovascular deaths, 164 cancer deaths, and 203 deaths from other causes. After adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship, METs were significantly associated with lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes. The annual rate of death from cardiovascular disease was nearly four times higher in women with poor, compared to good, exercise capacity (2.2% versus 0.6%). Annual cancer deaths were doubled in patients with poor, compared to good, exercise capacity (0.9% versus 0.4%). The annual rate of death from other causes was more than four times higher in those with poor, compared to good, exercise capacity (1.4% vs. 0.3%).