The study researchers investigated exercise capacity as an independent indicator for overall death risk amongst African-American men (6,749) and Caucasian men (8,911). They sought to analyze whether racial differences in exercise capacity had any influence on mortality. Each participant performed a standardized treadmill test to assess their exercise capacity. They were told to exercise until they felt fatigued or until cardiac ischemia symptoms developed. Each individual was then followed for an average of 7.5 years.
To analyze the outcomes of the study, researchers used peak metabolic equivalents (or METs) to measure the quantity of oxygen a person consumes when resting. The greater the MET measurement, the higher fitness score an individual receives. The results revealed that men deemed “highly fit”, with a MET score between 7.1 and 10, had about half the risk of death when compared to men with “low fit” scores of less than five METs.
Men who were at the upper echelon of fitness with a MET score of 10 or higher had a 70 percent lower risk of death compared to those in the “low” fit group. Lead author, Dr. Peter Kokkinos believes there are several reasons why these findings have significance. His first point is that his group of researchers was able to successfully quantify the health benefits per unit increase in exercise capacity. His second point emphasized that this is the first study to examine physical activity and mortality among African-Americans, data sorely lacking until this point.
According to Kokkinos, an individual does not need the exercise capacity of a marathon runner to achieve the desired health benefits. He claims that moderate levels of activity, like 30 minutes of brisk walking five to six days a week, is more than enough to attain a moderately high level of fitness.
Exercise also has a direct impact on men’s cancer mortality rates, according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer. A team of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden examined the connection between physical activity and cancer in over 40,000 men between the ages of 45 and 79. The seven year study revealed that men who cycled or walked for a minimum of 30 minutes daily had a 34 percent lower risk of a cancer-related death than men who did less exercise or no exercise at all.
Dr. Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, believes that the study gives clear evidence that men who exercise are less likely to die from cancer and are also more likely to survive an encounter with cancer should they get it. Although it is unclear from this study how exercise prevents cancer in men, we do that a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise can prevent up to half of all cancers.