Fitness Reduces Death Risk, Regardless of
American Diabetes Association
Being fit can lower a diabetic man's risk of
dying, even if he is significantly overweight, new research suggests.
Investigators found that diabetic men who were
physically fit were less likely than their less-fit peers to die of any cause
over about 15 years. What's more, men who were heavy yet fit had death risks
similar to those of fit normal-weight men.
"This is a testament to the power of being
physically active," said lead study author Dr. Timothy S. Church, medical
director of the Cooper Institute in Dallas. "Essentially, fitness totally
negated the effects of being overweight," he told Reuters Health.
Church and his colleagues report the findings in
the January issue of the journal Diabetes Care.
The study involved nearly 2,200 men who were
followed for an average of just under 15 years. All had undergone a range of
health assessments, including treadmill tests to gauge their fitness levels,
Church's team found that, with all health factors
considered, greater fitness meant a lower risk of death over the years,
regardless of weight. The biggest difference in risk was seen among obese men,
where those who were only moderately fit had a much lower risk of death than
those who were the most out of shape.
This is significant, according to Church, because
it doesn't take a grueling exercise regimen to achieve such a level of fitness.
Thirty minutes of walking five times a week should do it, he noted.
Excess weight and obesity are major factors in
type 2 diabetes, and weight loss can often help control the disease and its
complications, which include heart disease and stroke. The new findings do not
minimize the importance of weight control in managing diabetes, according to
Church and his colleagues.
However, Church said they do point to the power
of physical fitness even in the absence of weight loss.
And, looking at the findings from a different
perspective, thinness did not protect study participants from the ill effects
of being out of shape. Among normal men, those who were the least fit were
nearly seven times more likely to die than the most fit.
Doctors, Church said, should talk to all patients
about getting and staying physically active.
Exactly why fitness cut death risk in this study
is not fully clear, but better cardiovascular health almost certainly factored
in, according to Church. However, the Cooper Institute researchers have also
found that fitness is related to a lower risk of cancer death.
SOURCE: Diabetes Care, January 2004.