Lead author Rupert Hung, a medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that in their study, the patients who were most fit had a 75 percent lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who were least fit.
He said that this was true regardless of whether the patient had previous stenting or bypass surgery to open up any blocked arteries.
The study included information on more than 9,800 adults who had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease. All of the patients in the study had been referred by a physician to undergo a treadmill stress test and were followed for an average of 11 years to see whether they had a heart attack, had undergone a revascularization procedure to restore blood flow, or had died from any cause.
Co-investigator John W. McEvoy, M.B., B.Ch., a cardiology fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that they measured exercise capacity, expressed as metabolic equivalents, or METS, from the patients' stress test results.
He said that they found that each 1-MET increase in a person's exercise capacity was associated with a 13 percent reduction in risk of death, regardless of whether they had previously had a procedure to open a blocked artery.
Senior author Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a cardiologist with the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, said that their results suggest that increasing physical fitness through cardiac rehabilitation programs and exercise may be an effective supplement to medications for preventing complications associated with coronary artery disease.