Physical fitness trumps body weight in reducing death risks

Posted on Dec 8, 2011

According to a recent study by the American Heart Association, being fit is better for long term health than losing weight.

“This is good news for people who have trouble losing weight but are still physically active,” says Alta Bates Summit cardiac surgeon Junaid Khan, M.D.

Picture of Dr. Junaid Khan with Alta Bates Summit Medical Center

Dr. Junaid Khan, a cardiac surgeon at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center

“For example, in a simplistic way, in comparing two equally, moderately overweight people, the person who maintained their level of fitness would have a lower chance of a cardiac event than the one who lost weight but was inactive,” says Dr. Khan.

The study of 14,345 adult men found:

  • Maintaining or improving fitness was associated with a lower death risk even after controlling for Body Mass Index (BMI) change
  • Every unit of increased fitness (measured as MET, metabolic equivalent of task) over six years was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke-related deaths, and a 15 percent lower risk of death from any cause
  • Becoming less fit was linked to higher death risk, regardless of BMI changes
  • BMI change was not associated with death risks

The study did not include morbidly obese people with a BMI above 30. To read the full study, click Read more about the American Heart Association study.

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