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Which Affects Longevity More, Fitness Or Fatness?

For longevity, fit trumps fatTo live a long life, which do you think is more important, keeping your weight down or your fitness up?

According to a recent study that was done at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health and published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, fit trumps fat as far as longevity is concerned.

In the study, those who maintained or improved their fitness level were less likely to die from heart attack or stroke, or anything else for that matter, than those whose fitness level dropped over time. And that was true even if their weight increased.

Stated from the other point of view, participants whose fitness declined were more likely to die than those whose weight increased over time.

According to fitness experts, such as the World’s Greatest Personal Trainer, my wife Kathie Lamir, there are 7 components of fitness.

This study focused on the fitness component of cardiorespiratory endurance.

cardiorespiratory enduranceTo measure endurance, the scientists gave each participant a series of treadmill tests over the course of the study.

In addition to the overall fitness-is-more-important-than-fatness conclusion, the doctors learned something else that is very important.

Every little bit helps!

That is, each increase in endurance level resulted in a lower risk of death.

Conversely, the men who grew less fit were more likely to die from any cause.

The new findings validate previous studies on the health benefits of fitness, says American Heart Association spokesman Richard Stein, M.D. He is the director of the Urban Community Cardiology Program at the New York University School of Medicine. “Fitness is a much greater predictor of [death] than weight,” Stein says.

“If you have been struggling with your weight for years, putting your work into endurance fitness is clearly a very powerful predictor of living longer,” he says.

Here”s the point: For many, increased endurance is not only an easier goal to attain than weight loss but is also pays greater dividends.

For longevity, fitness trumps fatnessThe test subjects were all average weight at the outset of the study. Therefore, without further testing, the doctors are not sure whether the results apply to obese people, too.

What about naturally thin people?

As for them, Dr. Stein says, “don’t fool yourself into thinking, ‘I am skinny and will be fine if I don’t do any exercise.’ You won’t be. Being [inactive] is not OK, even if you are skinny.”

As is often the case when I report on health studies, the takeaway is that, for a long and healthy life, you must stay active and maintain or increase your fitness level over time.