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Even if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, if you get in shape and stay in shape – and you’re male – your risk of death from cardiovascular disease or other causes will be lower.
Researchers from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health followed more than 14,000 white, financially secure middle-aged men for more than 11 years. They regularly assessed the men’s fitness levels and their body mass index via treadmill tests and height and weight measurements.
After the 11-plus years of follow-up, the investigators found that every unit of increased fitness was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke-related deaths and a 15 percent lower risk of death from any cause. The overall risk of death was higher among men who became less fit, regardless of their weight.
The researchers noted that because the study included only white middle and upper class men, most of whom were of normal weight or overweight to start with, it is not clear whether the results would apply to the severely obese or to other racial and socioeconomic groups. However, they did speculate that women who stay in shape are likely to have the same lower death risks as the men studied.
We’re all so obsessed with weight control these days that sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the realities of weight and health. Research suggests that excess weight is unhealthy when you’re young but may not be as problematic when you’re old. What’s more, if you’re somewhat overweight in middle age, you may enjoy a healthier and longer old age than those who are too lean. Instead of worrying that you’re a few pounds over your ideal weight as defined by insurance tables, your best bet long term is to concentrate on maintaining optimum health by eating right and keeping physically active.