Physical fitness trumps body weight in reducing death risks

December 05, 2011

If you maintain or improve your fitness level -- even if your body weight has not changed or increased -- you can reduce your risk of death, according to research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In a study of 14,345 adult men, mostly white and middle or upper class, researchers found that: BMI is a measurement based on weight and height (kg/m2). MET measures the intensity of aerobic exercise - specifically, the ratio of metabolic rate during a specific physical activity to a reference rate of metabolic rate at rest.

"This is good news for people who are physically active but can't seem to lose weight," said Duck-chul Lee, Ph.D., the study's lead researcher and physical activity epidemiologist in the Department of Exercise Science at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health in Columbia. "You can worry less about your weight as long as you continue to maintain or increase your fitness levels."

Results of the study underscore the importance of physical inactivity as a risk factor for death from heart disease and stroke, said researchers. Researchers also found no association between changes in body fat percentage or body weight and death risk.

Participants, who were an average 44 years old, were part of the long-term, large-scale Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. They underwent at least two comprehensive medical exams.

Researchers used maximal treadmill tests to estimate physical fitness (maximal METs), and height and weight measurements to calculate BMI. They recorded changes in BMI and physical fitness over six years. After more than 11 years of follow-up, researchers determined the relative risks of dying among men who lost, maintained or gained fitness over six years. They accounted for other factors that can affect outcomes, including BMI change, age, family history of heart disease, beginning fitness level, changes in lifestyle factors such as smoking and physical activity, and medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

One possible explanation for these results: about 90 percent of the men were either normal weight or overweight at the beginning of the study. Among obese people, changes in BMI might have a significant effect on death risks. So it's unclear whether these results would apply to severely obese people, Lee said.

A BMI score under 25 is considered healthy, 25 to less than 30 is overweight, and 30 or greater is obese.

Because the study was mostly done in white middle and upper class men, it's difficult to know whether the results apply to other racial and socioeconomic groups. Women would likely have similar results as the men in the study, Lee said.
-end-
Co-authors are: Xuemei Sui, M.D., M.P.H.; Enrique G. Artero, Ph.D.; I-Min Lee, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Sc.D.; Timothy S. Church, M.D., Ph.D.; Paul A. McAuley, Ph.D.; Fatima C. Stanford, M.D., M.P.H.; Harold W. Kohl, III, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.; and Steven N. Blair, P.E.D.

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and by an unrestricted research grant from The Coca-Cola Company. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

NR11 - 1182(Circ/Lee)

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.