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You Can Be Fat And Healthier If You Exercise

Obesity fitness health exercise

Can you be fat and fit? That's the question York University researchers set out to answer in a new study that shows physical activity may be equally and perhaps even more important than weight for people living with severe obesity.


According to the results of a recent study, out of York University's School of Kinesiology and Health Science, individuals with severe obesity who are fit can be just as healthy as those who weighed significantly less than them. The goal of the study was to explore the benefits of cardiorespiratory fitness on cardiovascular health in populations with mild to severe obesity.

Previous literature suggests at obese people are cannot be fit. Until this study, it was unclear whether the beneficial association between fitness and health is similarly present in those with mild and severe obesity. However, the results of this study suggest that even individuals with severe obesity, or a BMI greater than 40, can be fit and therefore, healthy if they exercise.

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They Hit The Treadmill

Patients from the Wharton Medical Clinic completed a clinical examination and maximal treadmill test. Patients were categorized into fit and unfit based on age- and sex-categories and body mass index (BMI) class.

You Can Be Fat And Fit

Within the sample, 41% of participants with mild obesity had high fitness whereas only 25% and 11% of the participants with moderate and severe obesity, respectively, had high fitness.

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BMI category was independently associated with most of the metabolic risk factors, while fitness was only independently associated with systolic blood pressure and triglycerides.

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The prevalent relative risk for pre-clinical hypertension, high triglycerides and Low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and pre-diabetes was only elevated in the unfit moderate and severe obesity groups and fitness groups were only significantly different in their relative risk for prevalent pre-clinical hypertension within the severe obesity group.

High fitness was associated with smaller waist circumferences, with differences between high and low fitness being larger in those with severe obesity than mild obesity.

"You really have to disconnect the body weight from the importance of fitness," says lead researcher Jennifer Kuk. "You can get fit without losing weight and have health benefits."

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Movement Matters

Having a high fitness level matters, and really reinforces the importance of fitness in terms of health. The study concluded that it is a sedentary life that causes illness more than weight gain and that you can still be fit despite the number on the scale. The study concluded, in contrast to previous observations, the favorable associations of having high fitness and health may be similar in individuals with severe obesity compared to mild obesity. Therefore, physical movement is highly beneficial, whether it is for anesthetics or health.