03/11/2010 13:02 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Want To Live Longer? Then Get Fit, Say Experts

Scientists have been saying for years that obesity can significantly shorten your life. But US researchers now claim obesity isn't the only thing we should avoid if we want to live longer. According to a study, your fitness level - not just your weight - may be key when it comes to your health and longevity.

Jogging is a cardiovascular exercise Jogging can help you live longer. Photo: Flickr, lululemon athletica

The study involved more than 11,000 women who were measured for body mass index, body fat percentage, waist circumference and cardiorespiratory fitness (that is, their cardiovascular fitness level).

They found - perhaps unsurprisingly - that women who had the highest levels of cardiovascular fitness had the lowest death rates. But they also discovered those who were fit, but who had high values for BMI, body fat percentage and waist circumference lived just as long as the women who were fit but with a low BMI. In other words, fitness is more important than thinness when it comes to living longer.

Cardiovascular exercise includes any kind of activity that gets you out of breath and your heart pumping. So if you're a regular jogger, for instance, a dancer, or you do aerobics classes, you should have a high level of cardiovascular fitness.

Other forms of exercise such as yoga and Pilates may be great for your strength and flexibility, but experts argue they don't do much for your heart and lungs. That is they don't make you fit in a cardiovascular sense.

The study suggests it's better to be fat and fit than thin and unfit. Which would you rather be?

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