Low levels of physical activity can put healthy weight adults at the same risk for cardiovascular diseases as those who are overweight, a study has found.
"Our study demonstrates that a sedentary lifestyle counters the benefit of being at a normal weight when it comes to heart disease risk," said Arch G Mainous from University of Florida in the US.
"Achieving a body mass index, or BMI, in the normal range shouldn't give people a false sense of confidence they're in good health. If you're not exercising, you're not doing enough," Mainous said.
These adults had higher levels of belly fat, shortness of breath upon exertion, unhealthy waist circumference or less than recommended levels of physical activity, the researchers said.
"We have traditionally thought that people with a normal BMI are healthy and at low risk for heart disease, but increasingly we are finding that how much you weigh is not necessarily a measure of good health," said Mainous.
"Sedentary lifestyle markers may play a better role in predicting cardiovascular disease risk," he said.
The study focused on participants aged between 40 and 79 who did not have a previous diagnosis of coronary heart disease, stroke or heart attack.
Researchers examined participants' sagittal abdominal diameter, which is a measure of fat in the gut region, and waist circumference as well as self-reports on the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity, the amount of time spent sitting and whether they experienced shortness of breath either when hurrying or walking up a slight hill.
In addition, researchers calculated the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, or ASCVD risk score, of participants.
The ASCVD risk score uses weighted variables, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, smoking status, diabetes status, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood pressure medication status, to calculate individuals' risk of having a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years. A score of 7.5 per cent or higher is considered high risk.
The researchers found the rate of high ASCVD risk score among people who are overweight was similar to the rate among people who had a normal BMI, but had indicators of a sedentary lifestyle.
(With inputs from agencies.)