Run Forest Run…like your life depends on it.
Considerable attention has been paid to the value of daily exercise, including a reduction in susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. In fact, the hemodynamic response to exercise is a predictable determinant of cardiovascular health, and for these reasons, has become increasingly important in documenting health status. Cardiovascular risk is associated with an exaggerated blood pressure response to exercise, and exercise capacity provides an objective assessment tool for cardiovascular reserve. For example, the six-minute walk test is a standard assessment tool for the integrated indices of cardiopulmonary hemodynamic status in pulmonary hypertension patients.
While it is increasingly well known that daily aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health, the link to longevity has not been systematically tested. This issue was recently addressed by a multi-center group of investigators led by Dr. Koch at the University of Michigan1. These researchers took advantage of rats selectively bred into groups with high and low aerobic capacities, capacities that were tested using treadmill running capacity. Cohorts of the rats bred from generations 14, 15, and 17 were tracked for survivability, in relation to cardiovascular fitness, including measurements of maximal oxygen uptake. The mean lifespan of low aerobic capacity rats was as much as 45% shorter than the lifespan of high aerobic capacity rats; 50% survival of low aerobic capacity animals was 24 months, and of high aerobic capacity animals was 36 months. Declines in systolic and diastolic cardiac function were documented as rats aged, and were especially prominent in low aerobic capacity animals. These collective findings reveal that chronic aerobic exercise, and improvements in aerobic capacity, provides a longevity survival advantage. Perhaps we have the fountain of youth at our fingertips after all.
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