Study says treadmill use can reduce your risk of dying

A study from the Mayo Clinic shows treadmill use may increase your life expectancy. (Photo Amy Wallace)

Amy Wallace
News Reporter

New research provides us with one more reason to hop on a treadmill.

Cardiologists from Johns Hopkins University devised a formula that estimates an individual’s risk of dying in the next 10 years, based on their ability to exercise on a treadmill at an accelerating speed and sharpening incline.

Researchers analyzed data from 58,020 residents of Detroit, Mich., between the ages of 18 and 96. Participants free of heart disease were referred for an exercise stress test from 1991 through 2009. The researchers then tracked how many participants died from any cause over the next decade.

The algorithm, named the FIT Treadmill Score, factors in age and gender. It also factors in peak heart rate reached during intense exercise, and how well one can tolerate physical exertion.

Scores ranged from positive 200 to negative 200, the former being the optimal score.

According to the FIT Score, those with scores above zero had better estimates of survival, and those who scored 100 or higher had a two per cent mortality risk for the next 10 years.

Having a score below negative 100 was associated with a 38 per cent risk of dying in the next 10 years.

A 45-year old woman with a fitness score in the bottom fifth percentile, for instance, is estimated to have a 38 per cent risk of dying over the next 10 years. This is in comparison with a two per cent risk for a 45-year old woman with a top fitness score.

Even after accounting for factors such as diabetes and family history of premature death, fitness level was the greatest indicator of death risk.

Researchers hope that, by highlighting mortality risk, this will provide incentive for patients to increase exercise and improve cardiovascular fitness.

“Based on a fairly large sample size, researchers have found a way to predict the effects of an individual, in their current health status, on how long they would continue to live that way,” said Michael O’Leary, associate dean of the School of Health Sciences, Allied Health Division at Humber College.

“It’s a really poignant point that if we are able to show individuals who are in the lower end of physical fitness, perhaps they can make some changes to offset that, hopefully.”

O’Leary said that regular physical activity regulates many things in our body, such as blood glucose which helps offset diseases such as diabetes.

“The heart is a muscle that needs to be used on a regular basis, and in doing so we gain other benefits such as improvement in blood flow around our body,” said O’Leary. “It really contrasts lack of physical activity which accrues so many negative benefits.”

“Exercising is going to help in terms of overall self-esteem, body awareness and self-confidence in oneself,” said Monique Haan, varsity academic advisor, cross country coach and personal trainer at Humber.

Exercising also helps to ward off various health concerns, such as diabetes, heart attacks and high cholesterol.

For treadmill beginners, Haan recommends starting with walking, then gradually working to jogging. Proper footwear, she adds, is essential.

Carley Finlayson, 20, a first-year Humber General Arts and Science student, likes the variety of cardio equipment offered at the Humber gym.

“Going to the gym is a good stress reliever, a good chance to clear my head,” she said.

The study is published in this month’s Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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