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Fitness Predicts Longevity After 70

As survival indicators, fitness levels are more accurate than traditional risk factors.

Most adults over age 70 have multiple risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or diabetes, but experts note that knowing the total number of risk factors is not helpful for predicting future health. By contrast, knowing how fit a person is can be predictive, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session in March 2019.

Researchers analyzed records of more than 6,500 people ages 70 and older who had taken an exercise stress test and were then tracked for an average of just under 10 years. Data analysis revealed that higher fitness levels significantly increased longevity. The most fit individuals were more than twice as likely to be alive 10 years later when compared with the least fit. On the other hand, a subject’s total number of cardiovascular risk factors was not associated with risk of death; patients with zero risk factors had a similar likelihood of dying as those with three or more risk factors.

“We found fitness is an extremely strong risk predictor of survival in the older age group—that is, regardless of whether you are otherwise healthy or have cardiovascular risk factors, being more fit means you’re more likely to live longer than someone who is less fit,” said lead study author Seamus P. Whelton, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “This finding emphasizes the importance of being fit, even when you’re older.”

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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