Fitness versus Fatness: Which Influences Health and Mortality Risk the Most?

Curr Sports Med Rep. Jul-Aug 2015;14(4):327-32. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000170.


Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is a more powerful predictor of mortality than body mass index or adiposity, and improving CRF is more important than losing body fat for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Data on reduced morbidity and mortality associated with increased CRF are strong and consistent. By contrast, data on intentional weight loss and mortality are uncertain, and weight loss-induced risk factor modification may be largely transient. Because weight loss maintenance is poor and considering the health risks associated with chronic weight instability ( "yo-yo" dieting), we propose an alternative paradigm that focuses on improving CRF rather than reducing body weight. We contend that this is a safer alternative for management of obesity and the associated comorbidities. Exercise adherence may improve if clinicians emphasized to their patients the importance of CRF compared with weight loss in improving health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mortality*
  • Obesity*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Risk Assessment