Fitness trumps fat when it comes to living longer.
In a new study of more than 14,000 men, those who maintained or boosted their fitness level were less likely to die from any cause, including heart disease. This was true even if their weight stayed the same or increased compared to men whose fitness levels dipped over time.
The new findings appear in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
It’s hard to lose weight and maintain that loss. This study points to increased endurance as a potentially more attainable goal with even greater dividends. “Many people worry about their weight and weight gain, but based on our study, weight change is less important than fitness changes,” says researcher Duck-chul Lee, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health in Columbia.
His advice? “Worry less about your weight and focus more on maintaining or improving your fitness level,” Lee says.
Lee and colleagues assessed the men’s fitness via treadmill tests. After 11 years, men who became more fit or maintained their level of fitness were less likely to die from heart disease, stroke, or any other cause than were men who became less physically fit over time.