Even a Little is Good
Too much of a good thing can be definitely bad for us. But a new study published Friday in JAMA Network Open suggests that exercise is a clear exception. It found that any level of cardiovascular fitness—including the kind you’d see from elite athletes—is linked to staying alive longer.
That exercise is universally great for our health sounds like a no-brainer, sure. But in recent years, there’s actually been evidence that elite athletes and other heavy exercisers might paradoxically be at greater risk of some heart conditions than the average person, such as an irregular heartbeat, clogged arteries, and thickened heart valves. And these conditions might then raise an athlete’s risk of sudden cardiac death or other heart problems.
[However] across the board, the authors found, the more fit a person was, the less likely they were to be sent to an early grave. And while the life-saving effects of exercise did start to taper off, with elite athletes only being slightly more death-proof than merely highly active people, the researchers found there was “no observed upper limit of benefit.”
Other research has found that any amount of regular exercise will help you out in the long run, not just in prolonging your life but improving the quality of those last days. And in the current study, even people with below average levels of fitness were much less likely to die than those with the worst fitness. Overall, the authors estimated that poor fitness raised the risk of dying by the same degree or greater as other major risk factors, like cardiovascular disease or smoking.
So yeah, the more exercise you can get, the better. But don’t get down on yourself for just doing as much power walking or stair climbing as you’re capable of.
Now, as with any such study, this one needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Furthermore, for a Christian, exercise should not be nearly as important as a myriad of other things. However, that does not mean that exercise is unimportant, or that it should not be done. It should…on a daily basis, in fact. And this is especially the case given that a modern lifestyle is very different from an ancient one, where mere daily activity–such as farming, fishing, or construction–was enough exercise for the body to keep it relatively healthy. But that is not true of a modern ‘sit-in-a-chair-for-10-hours’ lifestyle. So, a Christian should exercise, not only because it is good for him, but also because, as this study shows, it will improve the quantity and quality of his life, and that, in turn, can help his efforts at evangelism and apologetics. And as noted, any amount of exercise helps, so even if all you can muster is a few jumping-jacks a couple of times a day, do it! There really is no excuse.