Obesity: You don’t have to lose weight to be fit

Table of Contents

  1. Overweight and obesity
  2. Study assessed fitness and metabolic health
  3. ‘Important health benefits’ for severely obese

New research suggests that people who are obese can enjoy good cardiovascular health as long as they keep physically fit. Also, for those with severe obesity, keeping fit may be just as important as losing weight.
woman on treadmillCan you have a healthy heart while overweight? A new study suggests that if you keep physically fit, you can.

“You can get fit,” explains study leader Jennifer L. Kuk, who is an associate professor from the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University in Toronto, Canada, “without losing weight and have health benefits.”

She and her team investigated the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and markers of cardiovascular health in individuals with mild to severe obesity.

Prof. Kuk explains that exercising for a total of 150 minutes per week — as recommended in national guidelines — is generally equivalent to losing less than half a pound in weight.

But this level of physical activity can bring considerable improvements in health for people with severe obesity.

“You really have to disconnect the body weight from the importance of fitness,” she urges.

The researchers report their findings in a paper that was recently published in the journal BMC Obesity.

Overweight and obesity

The World Health Organization (WHO) define overweight and obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.”

Body mass index (BMI) is a “crude measure” of obesity calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. Overweight is defined as having a BMI of 25 or higher, and obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher.

Using these measures, researchers have found that being overweight or obese likely puts people at higher risk for cardiovascular and other diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.

In the United States, more than two thirds of adults are overweight, including around a third who are obese.

As well as eating habits, there several other factors that play a role in overweight and obesity — such as genes, medical conditions, and being physically inactive.

Evidence suggests that more physical activity is needed to lose weight than is required to benefit health.

The new study is among the first to show that exercise may be even more important for people who are in the severely obese category — that is, those whose BMI exceeds 40.


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