Just as Fit With a Lower Heart Risk?

Physical fitness reduces risk of heart death even with no BMI change

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Getting your heart into better shape isn't just about losing weight. Improving your fitness level even without weight loss reduces your risk of dying.

Maintaining or improving fitness was linked to a 19 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke-related death with each increased fitness level, even without a change in body mass index (BMI).

"Continue to exercise even if it does not result in weight loss."

Duck-chul Lee, 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, called the finding good news for those who exercise but can't seem to lose weight.

It said they could worry less about their weight as long as they continue to maintain or better their fitness levels.

During the study researchers followed 14,345 adult men, most of which were white, with an average age of 44 as part of the long-term, large-scale Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. Participants underwent at least two comprehensive physical exams during the six-year study.

As part of those exams patients participated in maximal treadmill tests to evaluate physical fitness, and height and weight measurements were used to calculate BMI. Changes were calculated during the study period, and participants were followed for 11 years.

With each improved fitness level, participants reduced their risk of dying from any cause by 15 percent, while becoming less fit was linked to a higher risk of death even with no change in BMI, researchers found.

The finding was after accounting for other factors such as smoking, exercise and medical conditions including hypertension and diabetes. Investigators said the results highlight physical inactivity as a risk factor from dying of heart disease or stroke.

Most of the men who participated in the research were normal weight or overweight when the study began so it is unclear whether the results would apply to those who are severely obese.

Lee said he expects women would receive a similar benefit from maintaining or improving their fitness levels.

The study was recently published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 7, 2011
Last Updated:
December 8, 2011