Breaking News: People who are physically fit live longer than those who are not. Does this seem obvious? Maybe not. How many times have I heard, “Jim Fixx (the Godfather of running for fitness) died of a heart attack, so fitness can’t really matter all that much.” Well, now we have evidence to prove otherwise.

A new study lasting for over 20 years and following 15,000 U.S. military veterans showed that men who exercised regularly and were “highly fit” died at half the rate of men categorized as having “low fitness”. And men who were considered “very highly fit” had a 70% lower risk of death than those who had lower fitness scores. Furthermore, going from low fitness to high fitness is not that hard, either. According to Peter Kokkinos, director of the Exercise Testing and Research Lab at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, and lead author of the study, “All you need is between two and three hours of brisk walking a week. You can spread that out between four and six days a week.” He goes on to explain that by simply walking briskly for 30 minutes, 5-6 days a week would be enough to push an older or middle-aged man from the “low fit” to the “very highly fit” category in a matter of months.

One of the more interesting finding of the study was that this health benefit was independent of race or income, an idea that I push heavily on this post as well as in my upcoming book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health. In fact, this is the first major study that looked at both black and white men equally. Participants in the study were between 50-70 years old and were encouraged to exercise until they were tired. They were monitored for an average of 7.5 years. The study was controlled for factors of income and access to health care.

OK, I know this doesn’t seem surprising to some of you. Exercise is good for your health–we all know that. But now we know for sure that it not only improves the quality of life–through less pain, increased energy, heightened stamina, better sleep patterns, more stable moods, better sex drive and increased endurance–but also prolongs the amount of time one gets to enjoy that improved life. In other words, by simply exercising, you can not only feel great more often, but you can play harder and longer. Now isn’t that what life should be about?

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