Increase Your Fitness, Increase Your Health and Longevity!


Did you know that fitness level is a strong predictor of longevity, especially for adults over age 60? While obesity receives much airtime as a public health problem, it seems that being thin is not the be-all and end-all of a healthy body.

Results of a 12-year study have indicated that fitness levels can be more important than your weight levels and can definitely influence whether or not you suffer from health problems and die earlier than those who are physically fit but not necessarily thin.

The 12-year study was conducted by Professor Steven Blair from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Researchers looked at the relationship between body fat, fitness and longevity in 2,603 people over the age of 60.

At the start of the study, fitness levels were assessed using a treadmill stress test and body fat was calculated by various measures, including BMI, waist circumference and fat percentages. The volunteers had follow-up medical checks over the 12-year study period.

The overall results showed that fit adults who engage in cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis outlived the unfit, regardless of their level of obesity or waist size. There were 450 deaths during the study. Researchers found that those who died were older, had lower fitness levels and had more cardiovascular risk factors than survivors.

Death rates for those with higher fitness levels were less than half of the rates for those who were unfit and not surprisingly they were less likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels. The exception however was with those who were severely obese or with large amounts of abdominal fat.

The message from these study results is that there is great benefit to being physically active on a regular basis even if you are overweight. Exercise has a systematic effect on many levels – it strengthens the heart, the lungs and builds up the skeletal muscles. It also provides great benefit to the brain and the overall well-being of the person. It is important though to maintain a healthy body weight at the same time.

“Our data provides further evidence regarding the complex long-term relationship among fitness, body size and survival. It may be possible to reduce all-cause death rates among older adults, including those who are obese, by promoting regular physical activity, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week,” said Dr. Xuemei Sui of the University of South Carolina.

The findings for this study are published in the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.