In a recent study, researchers attempted to answer the very question posed in the title of this article. Before we dive into the results of this study and how it fits into what we already know about this topic, let’s define a few key terms.
What do we mean by fitness and fat?
Aptitude, also called cardiovascular fitness or cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), is a measure of the performance of the heart, lungs and muscles of the body. Muscle performance includes measures of strength and endurance. Because of the connections between mind and body, physical fitness also has an effect on mental alertness and emotional stability. Maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max), a laboratory measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during exercise, is the optimal measurement of CRF. However, self-reported physical activity is often used as an indicator of VO2 max in research studies because it is much easier and cheaper to evaluate.
Fatness, as I discussed in a previous blog post, can be defined in different ways. Most commonly used is the Body Mass Index (BMI), a calculation of your height that takes into account your height and weight. However, we know that measures such as Percentage of body fat, waist circumference, waist / hips, ratio and waist / height ratio tell us much more than BMI about a person’s health, metabolic risk, and risk of death. Yet, due to the ease and relatively inexpensive cost of this measure, BMI is most commonly used in research studies.
What was the purpose of the research study?
Come back to recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the researchers wanted to examine the “fit but bold” paradox. As some studies describe, the Fit But Fat Paradox suggests that obese people who are also active may experience a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease that overrides the effect of their increased weight.
To resolve this paradox, our researchers evaluated the association between different BMI categories and levels of physical activity and the prevalence of three major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD): hypertension (high blood pressure) , high cholesterol and diabetes. This was a large cross-sectional observational study that compiled data from 527,662 participants at one point in time, without any follow-up period.
They used the standard BMI thresholds to classify people into normal weight, overweight and obese. The levels of physical activity were as follows: inactive (not participating in moderate or vigorous physical activity); insufficiently active (less than 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or less than 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity); and regularly active (150 minutes or more per week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes or more per week of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both).
What were the results of the research study?
The researchers concluded that being regularly active or not active enough protected against hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, compared to inactivity. Protection was dose-related for hypertension and diabetes, meaning that higher activity levels further reduced risk.
However, neither regular nor insufficient physical activity outweighed the negative effects of being overweight or obese. In other words, overweight or obese people were at greater risk for CVD than their normal-weight counterparts, regardless of their level of physical activity.
These findings add to existing evidence that physical activity reduces – but does not eliminate – the effects of overweight or obesity on CVD risk.
What does this study mean to me?
While the results of this study may lead some to believe that all efforts to improve health and longevity should be directed towards weight management, we should not ignore the unrelated weight benefits of exercise, including including improving energy metabolism, oxidative stress, inflammation, tissue repair and immunity.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is important for lowering your risk of chronic disease, so your doctor may recommend weight loss treatments such as behavior and lifestyle changes, medications, weight loss surgery, or weight loss. combination of the above. However, we must remember that obesity itself is a chronic disease, over which an affected individual often has no immediate control.
But something we can control is our level of physical activity. Whether for you that means running, walking, swimming, dancing, or lifting light weights, we can always move more, and if that helps us improve our health a little bit, it’s a win-win.