Good news if you're overweight-you still can be fit, as long as you're physically active.

The Research

Researchers at Dallas's Cooper Institute recruited 22,000 men in a study designed to look at the relationship between body fat and fitness. First, they measured the participants' body compositions and gave them treadmill tests. Then they tracked the men for eight years.

Result: Men who were overweight but fit were two times less likely to have died than those who were lean but unfit. Those who were lean and exercised were healthier than fat people who exercised, but the difference was small.

Exercise Safely in Hot Weather

Dilute sports drinks-mix two parts water with one part sports drink. Sports drinks are high in sugar, which can cause an energy spike that can lead to early fatigue, especially on hot days.

Do not overstretch-muscles move more easily in hot weather, but overstretching can lead to injury.

Be on the lookout for signs of heat exhaustion-headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and nausea. If you experience any of these, stop your workout, rest and hydrate.

Walking Inhibits Weight-Promoting Genes

A brisk hour-long walk each day cuts the effect of weight-promoting genes in half. The opposite is also true-the effect of the genes rises 25% for every two hours of daily TVwatching or other sedentary behavior.

Study of 12,000 people by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, reported at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in San Diego.

Being fit does not require high-level athletic training-it simply means that you should aim for a cumulative 30 minutes of moderate-intensity daily activity such as walking.

The Goal That Counts

If you have to pick a single health goal, it's generally better to get fit than to lose weight. To begin…

  • Check your fitness. If you're fit, you should be able to walk 30 minutes without stopping... and climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath. If you can't, you'll want to see a doctor and ease into an exercise plan. Heart attacks often occur when sedentary people suddenly face a cardiovascular stressor, such as overly vigorous exercise.
  • Exercise consistently. The duration of exercise-and doing it regularly-is important.
  • Make exercise easy. You can achieve fitness as you go about your day. Examples…
  • Walk. Every hour of walking can increase your life expectancy by two hours. At work, take the stairs instead of the elevator...go for a walking break instead of a coffee break...make walking tours part of your vacations.
  • Squeeze in exercise. Bring a resistance band to work, and do short workouts at your desk. At home, stand up rather than sit when watching TV or talking on the phone. When reaching for something on a high shelf, stretch up on your toes to get it. Squat down to pick up something low.

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