Health Risks of Being Out of Shape: Almost as Deadly as Smoking!

By , Category : General Health

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out of shapeOK, so you know that smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It increases your risk of lung cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and early death. But there’s something that could be classified as even more insidious than smoking…and it could be putting you at risk for a shortened life span, even if you’ve managed to quit cigarettes or avoid that bad habit your whole life.

A brand new study has revealed that being out of shape can be nearly as risky to your health as smoking.

Study Shows Being Out of Shape Ups Risk of Death Almost as Much as Smoking Does

In a massive study tracking men for 50 years, researchers in Sweden learned that men who didn’t exercise and were physically unfit were almost as likely to die early as smokers.

They looked at the VO2 max of participants, which is a way of tracking a person’s fitness level. VO2 max measures how well your body utilizes oxygen and pumps blood; in other words, your maximum aerobic capacity. And although genetics play a slight role in how well your body pumps blood and uses oxygen, lifestyle decisions play the most important role. Being sedentary or being overweight decreases a person’s VO2 max, while exercise raises it.

Closely following smoking as the top culprit, men with a low VO2 max had the shortest lifespans. The group with the lowest maximum aerobic capacity was 21% more likely to die young than those with an average VO2 max, while they were 42% more likely to die young than the most fit. So the fitter you are, the less likely you are to die prematurely.

More Dangerous Than High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

What was also interesting is that poor fitness levels were even more dangerous than high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Men who were very fit but had elevated blood pressure or slightly unhealthy cholesterol profiles generally lived longer than men who were out of shape but had healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Now, it’s no secret that fitness and activity levels are important for health and longevity, but I’m not sure even I thought inactivity was nearly as dangerous as smoking. Thankfully the benefits of exercise don’t take very long to kick in and you can increase your VO2 remarkably in a rather short period of time.

How to Improve Your Fitness Level

To increase your VO2 max, all you have to do is start moving more. Start slowly, maybe do some form of activity 20 minutes per day and, when you’re ready, begin to increase the duration and intensity of your activity. Things like cycling, walking, jogging, and running are a great place to start. Or swimming is a good low-impact alternative if you find other aerobic activities challenging.

If you’re unfit and have been largely inactive in your adult years, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to adopt a more active lifestyle and experience the benefits.

Source for Today’s Article
Reynolds, G., “Being unfit may be almost as bad for you as smoking,” The New York Times web site, July 27, 2016;

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Adrian Newman, B.A.

About the Author, Browse Adrian's Articles

Adrian has been working in the information publishing world since 1997. But when it comes to health information, he’s a self-admitted late bloomer. A couch potato since pre-school, Adrian was raised on TV, video games and a lifestyle that led to childhood obesity that followed him well into adulthood. But when he hit his forties, he decided enough was enough. He had a family to take care of and his days of overeating, under-exercising and inactivity were going to lead... Read Full Bio »