In the battle of fitness versus fatness, which would come out on top? A new study finds that when it comes to longevity, how fit you are may be more important than your weight.
Published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, the study followed 14,358 middle-aged men over a period of 11.4 years. The participants that were the most fit (determined based on measurements of aerobic intensity on a treadmill) had a lower overall risk of death or dying from cardiovascular disease during the follow up period.
According to TIME, the men who maintained their fitness levels from the outset of the study lowered their risk of death by up to 30 percent compared to those who became less fit. The results were even better for those who improved their fitness, lowering their risk of death by up to 44 percent. For every unit of improvement in fitness, there was a 15 percent decrease in death from any cause and a 19 percent decrease in death due to a heart related event.
The researchers found there was no association between changes in BMI and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, reports The Washington Post. Participants who lost fitness over the course of the study period were found to be at increased risk of death, despite any changes in their BMI.
For those wondering if how much we weigh is dependent upon how fit we are, lead study author, Duck-Chul Lee, tells TIME:
“When you change your body weight, you have to consider whether you become more fit or not…If you gain weight, but become more fit, then that might be okay regarding your mortality risk. We have to start considering other factors when we talk about weight change and health outcomes.”
The researchers note that further research is necessary in order to determine if these findings would apply to women and those that are obese. 90 percent of the men in this study were either of normal weight or overweight at the start of the study.