Objectives: We examined the relation between body mass index, exercise, overall health, and physical functioning.
Methods: We studied 7867 adults aged 51 to 61 years in 1992 to 1996. Adjusted relative risks for health decline and new physical difficulties were determined with logistic regression.
Results: Overweight and obesity were independently associated with health decline (adjusted relative risk [ARR] = 1.29 and 1.36) and development of a new physical difficulty (ARR = 1.27 and 1.45). Regular exercise significantly reduced the risk of health decline and development of a new physical difficulty, even among obese individuals.
Conclusions: Maintaining ideal body weight is important in preventing decline in overall health and physical functioning. However, regular exercise can reduce the risk of health decline even among individuals who cannot achieve ideal weight.