Fitness level, not body fat, stronger predictor of longevity, researchers say

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Higher levels of cardio respiratory fitness are stronger indicators of longevity than body-fat levels for adults over age 60, according to a new study.

"It may be possible to reduce all-cause death rates among older adults, including those who are obese, by promoting regular physical activity, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes or more on most days of the week," write University of South Carolina researchers in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Investigators studied more than 2,600 adults who took part in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study over a 22-year span ending in 2001. They found that of the 450 deaths occurring during follow-up periods, most were likely to involve individuals with lower fitness levels and more cardiovascular risks than survivors. There were no significant differences in adiposity (body fat) levels among survivors and non-survivors, they said.