SUNDAY, June 15, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a man with type 2 diabetes, how long you live may be determined more by how physically fit you are than by how much you weigh.
A new study expected to be presented in San Francisco this weekend at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society found that physical fitness appeared to be more important than weight in estimating a male diabetic's longevity.
"Death rates were the highest for those who were 'low fit' in all weight categories," researcher Dr. Roshney Jacob-Issac, an endocrinology fellow at George Washington University Hospital, said in a prepared statement.
Researchers used 2,690 male diabetic veterans in VA hospitals, most of whom were overweight or obese based on their body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat using height and weight.
The vets were categorized as having low, moderate or high fitness level, depending on their performance on a standard treadmill exercise tolerance test.
The researchers found that the higher the man's level of fitness, the lower his risk of dying during the study period. For example, those in the high fitness level -- whether at normal body weight or overweight -- reduced their risk of death by 40 percent. The findings were even more dramatic for those classified as obese but in reasonable good shape: a cut in death risk of 52 percent, when compared to peers not physically fit, the study found during its seven-year follow-up period.
"Diabetics should improve their fitness level or exercise capacity to at least a moderate level, by being physically active. Weight loss is great, but being active is just as important," Jacob-Issac advised.
She said people should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity -- the equivalent to brisk walking at least five days of the week -- to achieve the health benefits reported in the current study.
The American Diabetes Association has more about diabetes.