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Study: Regular Exercise Can Lower Risk Of Premature Death

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Exercise capacity is a number that represents your fitness level related to your age. A study shows women with an exercise capacity below their age group are at higher risk of premature death.

It is not important to know your number, but it is important to make exercise a habit. Exercise was not always a habit for 30-year-old Leigh Ann Woodall.

"I got fat after I had my baby. I said, 'I'm never going to be fat,' so I started exercising," she said.

Motherhood motivated Woodall, while grandmotherhood inspired Margaret Hunter.

"I want to be able to play with my grandchildren and have fun and keep up with them," participant Margaret Hunter said.

A recent study shows both may also enjoy a longer life with their family if they maintain a good fitness level as they age. Researchers found women with a low exercise capacity for their age are at higher risk of premature death.

Excess weight, high blood pressure and high cholesterol also play a major role in premature death, but regular exercise has a way of improving all those numbers. Plus, it is never too late to start.

"It typically takes about three months to reach a moderate fitness level, and then you just want to maintain that," exercise physiologist Jill Johnson said.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to maintain fitness. It could add years to their lives.

"My dad is 70 years old and he still runs five miles a day, so I hope when I'm 70, I'll be able to do that," Woodall said.

"You know you just want to be able to do and live a normal active life for as long as you can," Hunter said.

The study out of NorthWestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago recommends doctors monitor a patient's exercise capacity, just like they check their blood pressure and cholesterol. It is a risk factor that can be improved with a change in lifestyle.


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