Overweight and obese Americans are often urged to lose weight in order to gain health. However, a new study from Vanderbilt University is dispelling the “you’re two burgers away from diabetes” sentiments.

The Huffington Post Black Voices reports:

Examining the exercise habits of more than 80,000 residents enrolled in the long-term Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS), researchers concluded that health disparities between white and black adults in the South are not connected to a lack of exercise. Instead, the disparate health outcomes are more likely related to other factors such as access to health care, socioeconomic status and even genetics, researchers say.

“Our conclusion is that physical activity is not a significant factor in disparities that are observed in health between, for example, African-Americans and whites in this country,” said senior author Mac Buchowski, Ph.D., research professor of Medicine and Pediatrics. Co-authors of the study are SCCS investigators from Vanderbilt, the International Epidemiology Institute, the National Institutes of Health and Harvard School of Public Health.

Buchowski adds that while the study does not reveal what the reason for the difference in health outcomes are, “at least we could eliminate physical activity as a deciding factor in disparities, or even that it has much influence on disparities.”

There are distinct differences in how exercise benefits various races. The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine published a study last year proving exercise doesn’t produce the same results for white and black adolescents. The study found that “while higher levels of physical activity among adolescent white girls was associated with lower levels of obesity by the time they turned 14, exercise did not produce the same result among their black peers” according to the Huffington Post Black Voices.

These recent findings don’t mean exercising should be disregarded. Researchers at King’s College London found a direct connection between mental wellness after 50 and consistent physical activity. The King’s College London study reports people who exercised often had better results on mental tests when they were 50.

Researchers have also found a link between running regularly and physical health. Running lowered the risk of developing hypertension by 4.2 percent, high cholesterol by 4.3 percent and diabetes by 12.1 percent. Walking offers similar benefits.

Buchowski encourages all people to remain physically active, even if other factors contribute to obesity.

“Regardless of our findings, we think that promoting physical activity is important,” Buchowski said. “In addition to national programs and guidelines universally available to everyone, we need targeted interventions for vulnerable populations with specific needs.”

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