According to a recent study in Circulation (2011; 124, 2483–490), when it comes to reducing the risk of death, physical fitness plays a bigger role than weight. The study included 14,345 men with an average age of 44 years. Each participant’s BMI and estimated metabolic equivalent of task (MET) were measured at least twice over 6 years. Also included in the study was an 11-year follow-up. By the time of that follow-up, 914 all-cause and 300 cardiovascular deaths had occurred among the subjects. After adjusting for BMI and fitness levels, researchers found that “every 1-MET improvement was associated with 15% and 19% lower risk of all-cause and CVD mortality, respectively.” The study authors added that “BMI change was not associated with all-cause or CVD mortality after adjusting for possible confounders and fitness change.” However, the authors did find that those men who “lost” fitness during the study period had a greater risk of death regardless of changes in their BMI.
“This is good news for people who are physically active, but can’t seem to lose weight,” said lead author Duck-chul Lee, PhD. “You can worry less about your weight as long as you continue to maintain or increase your fitness levels.”
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