Research is showing that a person’s fitness level at midlife is a strong predictor of long-term heart health, proving just as reliable as traditional risk factors like cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings.

The research focuses on how fast a person can run one mile:

  • High fitness: 8 minutes (men), 9 minutes (women)
  • Moderate fitness: 9 minutes (men), 10.5 minutes (women)
  • Low fitness: 10 minutes+ (men), 12 minutes+ (women)

Essentially, heart disease risk increases markedly for every minute longer it takes you to run a mile.

“The exercise you do in your 40s is highly relevant to your heart disease risk in your 80s,” researchers said.

But don’t let this research scare you – and certainly don’t try to test your speed if you’ve been sedentary for a while. Like anything else, you need to start slow if you haven’t been at it for a while.

Here are 5 things to remember before starting ANY fitness routine:

  1. Warm up — If you’ve ever started your car in a cold climate, you know that you have to let it warm up before you drive or you’re going to hurt the vehicle. Same thing goes for your body. Stretching to warm up your muscles is essential to help get the most out of your work out and to prevent injury.
  2. Eat — Starving yourself while you’re working out is counterproductive. Your body needs nutritious, plant-based, whole foods to prepare for and recover from a workout.
  3. Know your limits — There’s no shame in working up to a fitness routine. If you’ve been lax in the fitness department for a while, take it easy. The last thing you want to do is discourage yourself as soon as you get started.
  4. Be consistent — Starting and stopping your exercise routine is harder on your body than sticking with it. Take it easy if you have to (see #3) but don’t stop.
  5. Have fun — Exercise doesn’t have to mean running on a boring treadmill. Get out there! Go places, do things… the increased energy you’ll have from starting a new routine will give you the motivation to try stuff you never thought you could.

And don’t beat yourself up about it! Start slow and build up over a month or so. It can be hard to get back in shape — but the key is to just start today… so that you can be in good health to keep spreading the Gospel tomorrow!

Research published in J Am Coll Cardiol

Research published in Circulation magazine

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