Not Exercising Is Worse For Your Health Than Smoking, Study Finds

It turns out the only thing worse for you than getting up and going outside for a smoke could be not getting up what so ever.

A new study has found that a sedentary lifestyle is worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease.

Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and senior author of the study, told CNN “Being unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test has a worse prognosis, as far as death, than being hypertensive, being diabetic or being a current smoker."

"We've never seen something as pronounced as this and as objective as this."

Jaber called the results “extremely surprising”. He said researchers must now convey the risks to the general population that "being unfit should be considered as strong of a risk factor as hypertension, diabetes and smoking -- if not stronger than all of them."

Researchers retrospectively studied 122,007 patients who underwent exercise treadmill testing at Cleveland Clinic between January 1, 1991 and December 31, 2014 to measure all-cause mortality relating to the benefits of exercise and fitness. Those with the lowest exercise rate accounted for 12% of the participants.

Runners in the City 2 Surf race

The study was published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Previously researchers have been concerned with the idea of over exercising or “ultra” exercises and that those who excessively exercise might be at a higher risk of death, but this study found that not to be the case. Jaber described it to CNN as a revelation and that there is no limit to the benefit of aerobic exercise.

"There is no level of exercise or fitness that exposes you to risk," he said.

"We can see from the study that the ultra-fit still have lower mortality."

The benefits of exercise were seen across all ages and in both men and women. Whether you're in your 40s or your 80s, you will benefit in the same way."

The risks, he said, became more shocking when comparing those who don't exercise much.

"We all know that a sedentary lifestyle or being unfit has some risk. But I'm surprised they overwhelm even the risk factors as strong as smoking, diabetes or even end-stage disease."

Comparing those with a sedentary lifestyle to the top exercise performers, he said, the risk associated with death is "500 percent higher."

"If you compare the risk of sitting versus the highest performing on the exercise test, the risk is about three times higher than smoking," Jaber explained.

Comparing somebody who doesn't exercise much to somebody who exercises regularly, he said, still showed a risk 390 percent higher.

"There actually is no ceiling for the benefit of exercise," he said.

"There's no age limit that doesn't benefit from being physically fit."

It’s almost as if humans were meant to walk and run.

So, get up, get moving and run for your life.