PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA. Numerous studies have reached the conclusion that regular exercise provides significant health benefits. Researchers at the Stanford University medical Center have just completed a study aimed at determining exactly how beneficial being fit and having a high exercise capacity really is. Their study involved 6213 men who had been referred for treadmill testing for clinical reasons. They were followed for an average of six years during which 1256 of them died. The treadmill testing showed that peak exercise capacity was a strong predictor of the risk of death. An increase of 1 MET in exercise conferred a 12 per cent improvement in survival. One MET is defined as the energy expended in sitting quietly. The overall age-adjusted risk of death was 4.5 per cent for men without heart disease whose peak exercise capacity was between 1 and 5.9 MET as compared to 1 per cent for men with a peak exercise capacity of more than 13 MET. Similar results were found for men with diagnosed cardiovascular disease. Being on beta-blockers did not affect the correlation between exercise capacity and mortality. The researchers conclude that low peak exercise capacity is a stronger predictor of risk of death than other well established risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and certain heart rhythm abnormalities in both healthy men and men with heart disease.
Myers, Jonathan, et al. Exercise capacity and mortality among men referred for exercise testing. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 346, March 14, 2002, pp. 793-801