People can be both fat and fit, say experts

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Experts say it is possible to be “fat but fit” and that people should focus on exercise rather than dieting for a long life.

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In a new review collating multiple studies, two researchers say that when it comes to getting healthier and reducing the risk of dying early, getting more exercise and improving fitness is more effective than just losing pounds.

Writing in the journal iScience, Glenn Geiser, a professor in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University, and Siddharth Angadi, an associate professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia, argued for applying a “weight-neutral” approach. The treatment of health problems caused by obesity will also reduce the health risks associated with yo-yo dieting.


He said several studies have shown how people around the world have been trying to lose weight over the past 40 years, and yet obesity continues to rise.

“A weight-focused approach to the treatment and prevention of obesity has been largely ineffective”, he said, adding: “In addition, repeated weight loss efforts can contribute to weight gain, and undoubtedly weight cycling.” (Yo-Yo dieting), which is associated with significant health risks.”

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The pair pointed to studies showing that exercise was better for a longer life than simply losing weight.

They argued that “many health conditions related to obesity are more likely due to low physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness rather than to obesity”.

He added: “Epidemiological studies suggest that cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity significantly reduce, and sometimes eliminate, the increase in mortality associated with obesity.”

Studies have also found that “increased physical activity or cardiorespiratory fitness is consistently associated with a greater reduction in the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than intentional weight loss”.

However, the researchers said that adopting a weight-neutral approach does not mean that weight loss should be explicitly discouraged, especially when so many people wish to lose weight.

“But focusing on increasing physical activity as a primary goal, and increasing physical activity to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, may be prudent for treating obesity-related health conditions,” he said.

In one study (Nord-Trndelag Health Study), during a follow-up of nearly 16 years of adults with coronary heart disease, sustained low physical activity was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of dying from any cause and sustained high physical activity. was associated with a 36 percent lower risk of death compared to inactive people.

In comparison, weight loss was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of death but no increased risk of death due to weight gain.

Prof Geser said: “We want people to know that fat can be fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

“We realize that in a weight-obsessed culture, it can be challenging to have programs that do not focus on weight loss.

“We are not necessarily against weight loss; we just think that it should not be the primary criterion for determining the success of a lifestyle intervention program.”

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