Fitter Men Live Longer


It pays to invest in aerobic fitness into older age with the dividend being extra years added to your life. A long-term study from the USA has just found that men who scored highly on aerobic fitness while in their 40’s and stayed fit into their 50’s were 30% less likely to die over the next decade than their unfit mates. The same study also found that men who improved their endurance fitness over that time lowered their risk of death by 40%.

The Research

The researchers examined the separate and combined relationships of changes in endurance fitness and body mass index (BMI)  with death rates from both all causes and death rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 14,345 men (average age 44 years). Fitness was estimated from maximal treadmill test. Changes in fitness and BMI were tested after 11 years and the men were classified into loss of fitness, stable fitness, or gain in fitness groups.

The Results

At the time of the last test, 914 of the men had died from all-causes and 300 from CVD. The men who had maintained fitness showed a 30% lower risk from all causes and 27% lower risk of dying of CVD. However, the men who improved their endurance fitness lowered their risk of all-cause death by 40% and CVD death risk by 42% compared to the men who lost fitness. Crucially, for every 5-10% improvement in aerobic fitness, the risk of death dropped 15% and 19% for all-cause and CVD death, respectively. Moreover, aerobic fitness was far more important than BMI change in determining the risk of death.

So What?

Yet more evidence that we masters athletes need to stay active into older age. Masters endurance athletes know how important aerobic exercise is for both quality and quantity of life. Interestingly, our power / strength and team playing colleagues also benefit from the relatively smaller changes these type of training have on aerobic fitness.  So stick with it team!

For more information on successful aging and what science says are the keys to successful aging, see Chapter 1 of my book The Masters Athlete.

Source: Lee, D.C. and others (2011). Long-term effects of changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index on all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality in men: the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. Circulation 124(23): 2483-2490.