Obesity alone may no longer be linked to a high risk of death in women, according to research published in the Nov. 2010 Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. Researchers now suggest cardiovascular fitness level, not just a woman's size, may actually be the key predictor of health level and overall risk for death.

The study, titled "Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Adiposity, and All-Cause Mortality in Women," measured body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, waist-to-height ratio and cardiorespiratory fitness in 11,335 women from 1970 to 2005. Participants were divided into groups based on their cardiorespiratory fitness levels low fit equals the lowest 20 percent; moderate fit equals the middle 40 percent; high fit equals the highest 40 percent. Researchers tracked death rates among all participants, and 292 deaths from all causes occurred during the study period.

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