For those of you who follow the research, you may remember the debate about whether you can be fat and fit and still well off, as far as your metabolism and disease risk are concerned. Previously, researchers had concluded that although it’s best to be “fit and thin,” being “fit and fat” is almost as good and at least equal to being “unfit and thin.” A new study released in Journal of the American Medical Association a few days ago adds more to the debate when it comes to older adults.
This new study claims to show that although maintaining a healthy weight is important, it’s regular physical activity that is MOST important when it comes to living longer. The researchers studied fatness, fitness, and death rates in 2,603 people aged 60 years or older. When it came to predicting mortality, cardiovascular fitness appeared to be far more important than whether or not people were overweight.
One of the researchers, Dr. Steven Blair at the Univ. of South Carolina, is an acquaintance of mine for whom I have immense respect. Being overweight himself, he has long been a proponent of being fit, regardless of your body weight. At 68, he still runs 25 miles per week, and his level of cardiovascular fitness is high. His definition of exercising enough to become fit is 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week. The study found that even if you’re obese and fit, your death rate is no different than than a normal weight, fit person. What’s more, obese and fit individuals actually had a lower death rate than normal weight, unfit participants!
The least fit 20% of people in the study had a death rate that was twice as high as the people who were doing that amount of walking, regardless of their levels of fatness. The highest 20% in terms of fitness levels had death rates that were four times less than that bottom percentage. All of these results are good news for aging Americans who are overweight or obese. It just gives you one more really compelling reason to start moving more to get fit!