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Fitness May Lower Death Risk Even Without Weight Loss
Date:12/6/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A man's fitness level may be more important for his overall health than his body weight, a novel finding that runs counter to conventional wisdom.

A new study appearing online Dec. 5 in the journal Circulation finds that improving or even just maintaining your fitness level can help you live longer, regardless of whether your body weight has stayed the same or even gone up.

"We all tend to assume that it's weight loss and obesity and seeing a change in pounds that is having the true effect on overall cardiovascular disease and, ultimately, mortality," said Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "For these researchers to draw the conclusion that really it's fitness that may have more of an impact than seeing actual changes in pounds, that's big news."

Narula was not involved with the study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Coca-Cola Co.

Given that two-thirds of the U.S. population are overweight or obese, the observation could change the way millions approach health.

"It means that we can tell people to continue to exercise even if they're not seeing changes overtly physically," Narula continued. "It can be disheartening for people exercising and dieting to not see results. Being able to say its effects are going on at a level that you may not visibly see may translate into long-term outcomes; that's a powerful message."

So, to live longer you need to exercise more even if you're not shedding pounds.

These researchers looked at cardiorespiratory fitness as measured by metabolic equivalents (METs), an indication of how often a person engages in aerobic exercise and how fit they are.

The METs were measured from a treadmill test.

The study followed more than 14,000 well-off, middle-aged men for 11 years, finding that those who main
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