Before you retire to the couch after a long day of sitting at a desk, you may want to reconsider. New research shows that our sedentary lifestyle, and the lack of fitness that comes with it, is worse for us than we may have believed. New research shows that being unfit is almost as likely to shorten our lifespan as smoking.
According to a new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology that assessed various lifestyle factors, having low aerobic capacity is almost as likely to kill us as smoking. It turned out to be worse than having poor cholesterol profiles or high blood pressure.
In the unusually lengthy study, middle-aged men born in 1913 were assessed for various lifestyle factors for 45 years to determine the effect of smoking, aerobic capacity, cholesterol profiles and high blood pressure on the age of mortality. Of course, smoking was the most likely lifestyle factor to kill a person early, but low aerobic capacity as measured by peak oxygen uptake (better known as VO2 Max) was linked to higher mortality than the other cardiovascular factors assessed. The men with the lowest VO2 Max had a 42 percent higher risk of dying of premature death than the men who were the fittest, and about 21 percent higher risk than men with average aerobic capacity.
Of course, you can always hit the stairmaster or join a spinning class to boost your aerobic fitness, but improving your cardiovascular fitness is easier than you might think. Here are some ways to boost your fitness levels fast:
Walk, Walk, Walk
Walk to work, walk to meetings, walk around your neighborhood or walk around your kids’ playground at sporting events. It doesn’t matter where you walk as long as you walk. And, make sure you keep your pace brisk enough to elevate your heart rate but low enough to carry on a conversation.
Hike for Cardiovascular Health and Happiness
Hiking in nature is an amazing way to boost your fitness because it often has undulating terrain that helps to vary the intensity of the exercise. Additionally, the plants and trees growing there increase the level of oxygen available to us, which can help improve our cardiovascular health but offers other health benefits as well. A study published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, found that those who walked outdoors in nature have a significantly reduced risk of mental illness, compared to those who simply walked in urban areas.
Bike to Boost Oxygen and Brain Health
If you live too far from work to walk there, why not try cycling? Not only will you boost your physical fitness levels, you’ll also give your brain a boost too. That’s becauseresearch shows that when inactive middle-aged men and women begin cycling on a regular basis, they give their long-term memory a boost, too. I’m sure the same results can be expected for other age groups and fitness levels.
Take the Stairs
When choosing between elevators and stairs or ramps and stairs, opt for the stairs whenever possible to give your aerobic fitness a boost.
Get the Kids Involved
If you think your kids will come between you and any time you might have for exercise, why not head to the park and get active together? Whether you throw a ball around and chase after it, run races or participate in some other activity, you’ll be helping him or her to develop a healthy attitude toward activity while boosting your own fitness.
Join a Dance Class
Combine socializing with a new dance class to master the tango. Or perhaps belly dancing or Hawaiian dance is more your speed? Find a local dance class and move that body.
Exercise Even if You’re a Couch Potato
If you really can’t pull yourself away from the television, why not use commercial breaks as your time to give your fitness level a boost? Run on the spot until the commercial break is over, do jumping jacks or hop up and down on a mini trampoline.