By Patrick J. Kiger||May 11, 2012
All that time you’re spending at yoga or spinning class makes you feel good now, but it will have an even bigger payoff a few decades down the road, new research reveals.
Physically fit, healthy middle-aged adults have significantly lower health-care costs as they age, compared to their less physically fit counterparts, according to research presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2012 Scientific Sessions.
The study tracked Medicare coverage in 20,489 healthy people, free of prior heart attack, stroke or cancer, from 1999-2009. The average age was 51, and 21 percent were women. Researchers weighed risk factors, medical history and physical fitness at the beginning of the study, which has not yet been published in a medical journal.
The study found that participants who exercised and stayed fit had 38 percent lower medical costs many years later, measured by Medicare and other insurance claims from 1999 through 2009.
“We found that fitness confers dividends later in life even when other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity are controlled for,” the study’s author, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center research fellow Dr. Justin Bachmann, tells HealthDay. The Dallas-based medical center collaborated with the Cooper Institute, another Dallas-based institution founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, whose 1968 book Aerobics helped launch the modern fitness-oriented lifestyle.
Average annual claims for medical costs for the least fit men, at $5,134, were about 36 percent higher than the average of $3,277 a year for the most fit men. The average medical claims of $4,565 for the least fit women were about 40 percent higher than the $2,755 average for the most fit.
The study is consistent with earlier research showing the benefits of exercising in terms of reducing health-care costs. A study published in the American Journal of Health Behavior in 2001, for example, found that corporate workers who were regular exercisers generally had lower health-care costs than nonexercisers.
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