Better to be a fit fatty or an unfit skinny?

April 11, 2012 7:30 am

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Why do we do the exercise stress test at Executive Medicine?

As many of you know, it is NOT a great test for blocked arteries – a CT angiogram is a better test for this.

However we still do the stress test as a measure of fitness to check for arrhythmias and blood pressure response to exercise. Why? It may reflect severely blocked arteries in some people.

The main reason we perform stress tests is because we know fit people live longer and are much less likely to be troubled by significant coronary disease.

Recent study of fitness levels

In a recent study published in the American College of cardiology Jan 2012, 3148 healthy subjects underwent three medical examinations over 6 years; with fitness levels assessed using maximal treadmill testing.

During a six-year follow-up, individuals who maintained or improved their fitness levels had:

  • 28% lower risk of developing hypertension
  • 52% lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome (combination of a large waist, abnormal blood pressure, lipids, sugar metabolism, gout)
  • 30% lower risk of developing elevated levels of cholesterol, respectively

In another study published in Circulation in 2011, 14, 345 men (average age 44) were followed for 11 years. Those who lost fitness had a higher death rate regardless of BMI or weight change. Their conclusion was that preventing age-associated fitness loss is important for longevity regardless of BMI change.

While losing weight is often a challenge and can be difficult, improving your fitness is easily achievable. The bottom line is that fitness is more protective than leanness.

Written by Dr John Cummins, Wednesday 11th April 2012