“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,” Jaber told CNN. “We’ve never seen something as pronounced as this and as objective as this.”

Jaber 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.”

“It should be treated almost as a disease that has a prescription, which is called exercise,” he said.