People either love or hate the scale.  For some, the scale helps keep them motivated to eat healthy and maintain an active lifestyle.  But sadly, for a lot of people, the scale can be frightening.

But don’t give up on the scale (I’ll get to this later). Recent research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (Circulation) has shown that if you maintain or improve your fitness level, you can reduce your risk of death even if your body weight has not changed.  This is great news for the millions of people who struggle to lose weight even though exercise is a regular part of their weekly routine.

What Does This Mean?

There is so much emphasis on body weight today.  With rising childhood obesity rates, and unprecedented numbers of people with diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses, the message is constant:  as a nation we need to lose weight.

But we need to remember that body weight alone isn’t everything.  Maintaining or improving fitness does matter.  According to this study, every unit of increased fitness (measured in METS) over a six year period was associated with a 19% lower risk of stroke-related deaths and heart disease AND a 15% lower risk of death from any cause.

This is significant because those who became less fit were linked to a higher death risk.  The bottom line is that EXERCISE can help you live longer even if it doesn’t help you lose weight.

Easy Steps to a Healthier You

  1. Find ways to be active on most days.  When starting out, try to walk a minimum of 5,000 steps per day.  This is easy to do if you get in the habit of walking places you would otherwise drive.  Walk at lunch with co-workers and don’t forget to walk your dog when you get home!
  2. Challenge yourself to work harder and improve your current level of fitness.  Fitness is fairly easy to quantify.  You can increase levels of resistance with both cardio machines and strength equipment.  And, you can always increase the length of your exercise session.
  3. Use the scale wisely.  Don’t weigh every day—there are too many fluctuations in body weight—but make sure you step on a scale at least once a month.  The numbers on the scale may not be going down, but it’s really important that they’re not going up.  If you notice a slight increase, cut back on your portions for the next few weeks to get back on track.

So the next time you think about starting a fad diet or taking an unhealthy weight-loss supplement, don’t do it.  Just get out and exercise.  Have some fun while making yourself a healthier and happier you.


Stay Well,


Originally Published in  GlobalFit‘s GO! Newsletter