Fighting the flab? Relax - as long as you're fit, a bit of extra weight doesn't matter, according to a new study.

US researchers have found when comes to lowering your overall risk of death from heart disease, fitness may be just as important - if not more so - than weight.

In a 10-year study of more than 14, 000 American men, researchers found those who maintained their fitness levels lowered their risk of dying from heart-related or any other causes by up to 30 per cent, compared with those who lost fitness, reported Time.

Men who improved their fitness lowered their risk even more, by up to 44 per cent. In fact, for every unit improvement in fitness, there was a 15 per cent decrease in death from any cause, and a 19 per cent decrease in dying from heart-related events.


All of these changes occurred regardless of how much weight the men gained or lost.

With researchers concluding that loss of fitness was associated with a higher risk of mortality, they said other factors may need to be considered when experts talk about weight change and health outcomes.

However, he results don't completely absolve weight as a potentially health-harming factor as the study included men who were close to normal weight or only slightly overweight.

Previous studies have shown that among the obese, weight loss can have a much more dramatic effect in lowering risk of dying from heart events of other causes.