Too busy with work to hit the gym? Planning to get started running for a New Year’s resolution? According to a new scientific study, you might not want to wait until it’s convenient to start exercising, because getting fit in your 20s might be linked to better health for the rest of your life.
Researchers studied 4,872 adults from ages 18 to 30 in 1985 and 1986, giving them a strenuous treadmill exercise test. Around half of the group repeated the test seven years later. The treadmill test involved two-minute bursts of activity, each one getting harder and harder; people could handle it for an average of 10 minutes.
The researchers then followed up with the participants over the years, and at least half were tracked for more than 27 years. They found that performance on the treadmill test was a good prediction of heart health later in life. Every extra minute that a participant could handle the treadmill test was linked to a 12 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 15 percent lower risk of dying throughout the time of the study.
And that’s not just because physically fit people weighed less; the results were true regardless of factors like weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Performance wasn’t linked to differences in clogged arteries, but people who did better on the tests tended to show less strain on their heart muscles.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows how important exercising is, even if you don’t want to lose weight. “Being fit and maintaining fitness over time are very important to your heart and overall health for everyone — especially starting in early adulthood — and not only for people who are trying to lose or to maintain weight,” researcher Dr. Venkatesh Murthy told Reuters. So quit the excuses and maybe ask for running shoes this holiday season.