Northwest NEWS

April 29, 2002


You can be fat and fit

by Daniel R. Ball, MS
   There are some people who exercise and eat right, but still can't lose weight, but for them being overweight doesn't mean they are unhealthy. So what is more important, being thin or being fit?
   You can be fit and fat, and it's better than being skinny and sedentary. There is strong evidence in support of this claim. Consider some of the findings:
   A 1985 study published in the international Journal of Obesity involving more than 25,000 men tracked over a 23-year period found that fitness level was a better predictor of heart disease than weight alone.
   In other words, overweight men weren't necessarily at high risk for heart disease if they were fit.
   A study published in the October 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight men who exercised regularly had death rates, based on any cause, only slightly higher than those of unfit men of normal weight. Obese men who didn't exercise had death rates two to three times those of normal weight men. This finding suggests that exercise offered substantial protection to even very heavy men.
   A study published in 1998 issue of the International Journal of Obesity showed that of 21,000 men, unfit men were much more likely to die of heart disease than fit men-regardless of how much they weighed.
   Many overweight people are indeed at greater risk of chronic disease. But most studies that have identified weight as a culprit in these ailments have not factored in physical fitness. Without a way to separate overweight people who are fit from those who are not the numbers are misleading.
   Most doctors continue to urge patients to lose weight-especially those whose excess baggage is concentrated around the abdomen, who have even borderline high blood pressure or cholesterol and who have a family history of heart disease.
   Most doctors agree that maintaining a healthy lifestyle remains the single most important advice they can give their patient, consisting of regular exercise, eating healthful foods, and changing unhealthy habits, such as cigarette smoking.
   The following factors are indicators of better health:
   Total cholesterol levels below 200 mg/dl
   Blood pressure below 140/85
   Blood sugar 80 -120 mg/dl (before a meal)
   The majority of body fat below the waist (pear rather than apple shaped body)
   The ability to jog at a light pace for 20 minutes 11 - 12 minutes per mile
   Daniel R. Ball, MS holds a Masters Degree in Health Science, a Bachelor Degree in Physical Education and is a Master Level Personal Trainer. (425) 844-4039 or