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Exercise is key…duh.

Posted by moddoctor On December - 5 - 2007

Ok, today’s big news is that fit but overweight adults live longer than thin, out of shape adults. This isn’t news and shouldn’t be. Moreover, the press has spun this with ludicrous headlines like “New study offers hope to the heavyweights“, “Fitness, not low body fat, key to a long life“, and “Don’t worry being ‘fat’ if you are ‘fit’.” These headlines and the coverage in the press of this study completely mischaracterize the data.

This study is a simple study of mortality of 2036 adults over 60 enrolled in a study for the sole purpose of evaluating the mortality risk associated with obesity, amount of fat and fitness. The study found that exercise capacity and overall fitness had more to do with survival than the fatness itself. The study adjusts for all kinds of health and risk factors to isolate the risks of weight and fitness. So fit people were found to live longer than unfit people regardless of weight. This shouldn’t be a surprise on its own. And it doesn’t mean much for people struggling with weight problems and looking to live longer.

The study concludes “In this study population, fitness was a significant mortality predictor in older adults, independent of overall or abdominal adiposity. Clinicians should consider the importance of preserving functional capacity by recommending regular physical activity for older individuals, normal-weight and overweight alike.

Remember, this is a statistical study with lots of numerical gamesmanship built into the analysis. In the end, all it means is what we already know. Exercise, specifically cardiovascular exercise is really important.

This is not a groundbreaking study that means eating twinkies all day is OK. Ultimately, it is very difficult to have both high levels of cardiovascular fitness and significant obesity. If you can, the weight isn’t a big risk to your longevity. It does show that focusing on the fitness and letting the weight loss follow might be a valid approach to and older adult rather than cracking the whip about the weight alone.

Not matter how fit, though, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other diseases are directly associate with being overweight. That weight has still got to come off, it just might not kill you directly.

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