Fitness is Medicine: Why It’s Crucial for a Better Life
As a professor and researcher, part of my day-to-day job is thinking about fitness as medicine and how it impacts our overall health and wellbeing as we age. In particular, I’m interested in understanding how being fit affects our longevity and functionality, which are pretty important things.
When it comes to fitness, there are two key factors that are critical for our health: strength and cardiovascular fitness or respiratory fitness. These two factors are essential for extending our lifespan and improving our quality of life. When we’re alive and well, we’re mentally and physically healthier, which can help reduce our risk of every conceivable chronic disease, from cancer to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even dementia.
It’s important to note that there is some inevitability about aging, and we all lose some of our fitness capability as we age. Even if you spend a lifelong journey on fitness, you’re still going to lose that capability over time. However, the higher you start in terms of your fitness levels, the slower your rate of decline will be.
For example, if you start with a VO2 max of 70 mls/kg (a measure of your body’s ability to process oxygen) – which is around an elite athlete level – and eventually get down to a VO2 max of 40, you can still carry groceries, walk downstairs, and even go for an easy run if you want to, even at 70 or 80 years of age. However, if you start at 40 and don’t apply yourself to fitness, you’ll lose your fitness capability rapidly, making everyday tasks more challenging.
To put this into perspective, you need a VO2 max of 30 to walk continuously up a steep set of stairs, carry groceries up stairs with a rest, and even survive the stress of surgery. Half of the people with low VO2s cannot survive the stress of surgery due to a lack of vital capacity. This highlights the critical importance of prioritising fitness in our lives, and it’s something we don’t talk about enough.
Another pet peeve of mine is the negative connotations around people who prioritise their health and fitness. We often label them as “fitness freaks” or “health nuts,” which is not only unfair but also concerning. Is there anywhere else in society where we label someone who’s taking their health seriously as a freak?
Fitness is medicine and it’s a crucial thing we should all take seriously and prioritise in our daily lives. So, let’s get rid of the negative stigma around it. Make some time for it. Prioritise your life.
Incorporate more fitness into your life. You can get started by downloading your free fitness guide below.
Your free fitness guide
Here at PREKURE we believe that movement is medicine. This guide is intended to help you get moving in a way that brings you joy. Exercise and movement are about taking care of your body – they are a form of self-care that will extend your health span.
Grant Schofield is the Professor of Public Health at Auckland University of Technology, director of the University’s Human Potential Centre, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Education in New Zealand, co-author of four best-selling books and Chief Science Officer for PREKURE.
Professor Grant’s career has focused on preventing the diseases of modern times, and seeing what it takes to help people live a long, healthy and happy life.