It's better to have a bit more pudge and get your exercise rather than be thin but lazy, according to a new University of South Carolina report published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association.
The report is the first study to investigate the relationships between fitness, body fat and death in older Americans.
In a 12-year study, researchers found that among American adults over 60 years old, those who engaged in cardiovascular activity were living longer than those who exercised less, even when they had the same amount of body fat.
Previous studies have shown that both the level of cardiovascular fitness and the amount of body fat played a role in the health of older Americans But this study shows that cardiorespiratory fitness helps adults over 60 live longer, regardless of body fat.
"Fitness level is a strong predictor for risk of dying in older adults," said Dr. Steven N. Blair, one of the authors of the study.
With 70 million people over the age of 65 by the year 2030, the study points to a major challenge for the public health sector.
"Already we know that nearly one-third of Americans are obese, and the majority of adults do not get enough physical activity," Blair said.
The study gives hope to Americans who fear they are not healthy because they cannot shed the fat. Adults can be physically active by walking briskly for half an hour a day, five days a week. They can also engage in recreational activities like golf, swimming or dance classes.
"There is a great benefit to being fit," Blair noted, "even if you are, in fact, obese."
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