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Study Suggests Physical Fitness is as Important as Body Weight in Lowering Mortality Risk in Men

WASHINGTON (June 17, 2014) — Peter Kokkinos, Ph.D., adjunct professor of physical therapy and health care sciences, and Charles Faselis, M.D., associate professor of medicine, both at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, were recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings for their research finding that higher fitness levels negate the “obesity paradox.”

For a number of years, the medical community has known that being overweight or obese increases one’s risk for chronic diseases and premature death. However recent studies have also reported that overweight and obese individuals die at a lower rate than those of normal weight, thus creating the puzzling phenomenon known as the “obesity paradox.”

“We wanted to look at this paradox because physically active people usually have a relatively low body weight and live longer than those who live a sedentary life,” said Kokkinos, Washington D.C. VA Medical Center’s Exercise Physiologist.

In the article, “Cardiorespiratory Fitness and the Paradoxical BMI-Mortality Association in Male Veterans,” Kokkinos and Faselis, who is also at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center, looked at the impact body weight has on death when considering the fitness status of individuals. They found that increased fitness levels negate the increased mortality risk in Veterans with low weight. The results also suggest that the paradoxically higher mortality risk observed in those with low body weight is likely the result of unhealthy weight loss and loss of lean body mass associated with an undetected disease.


This press release posted courtesy of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For the full press release, please visit