Why Being ‘Fat but Fit’ is worse than not exercising at all: A new study has found that your health is fine if you get about and move – regardless of the size of your gut. The Erasmus University Medical Centre reviewed 15 years of health records, discovering that those who were active around 4 hours a day were far less likely to suffer cardio problems than inactive men. No s**t Sherlock so far, but these active men were technically obese.
So is fit-but-fat really the way forward? We say no – getting active is a good start, but your belly is still working insidiously against your insides. MH shows you why – and how – you should ditch the keg for a six-pack.
Carry a few too many extra pounds around your middle, and all the burpees and bike rides might not be enough to save you: It’s more dangerous to be obese than it is to be inactive, a new study from Sweden suggests.
To answer the question of whether fitness can offset the risks of being fat, the researchers measured the body mass indexes (BMIs) and aerobic fitness levels of more than 1.3 million young men. They considered VO2 max—the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can take in and use during intense exercise—as measured during a cycling test as the marker of how aerobically “fit” the men were.
Then, they tracked the number of deaths that occurred over the next 29 years.
The researchers discovered that guys with the lowest levels of aerobic fitness who maintained a normal BMI—between 18.5 and 24.9—were actually 30 percent less likely to die during that time than obese men—BMI of 30 or greater—with the highest levels of aerobic fitness were. It’s not quite clear why extra weight blunts the positive effects of fitness. And it’s important to note that the study used BMI to measure obesity, which doesn’t differentiate between fat or muscle mass.
For instance, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Is Technically Obese. Yet no one in their right mind would ever call him fat.
But the link that the researchers found here is likely due to a high body-fat percentage, not muscle, causing the extra weight. And that’s probably due to the inflammatory hormones circulated by fat tissue, says Kevin Davy, Ph.D., director of the Fralin Translational Obesity Research Center at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute
More fat tissue means more inflammation, which is linked to the development of several serious conditions, like heart disease and depression, he adds.
Now, that’s not to say that exercise doesn’t help. In fact, when the study looked at men overall, they found that those with highest levels of aerobic fitness were less than half as likely to die of any cause than men with the lowest.
It’s just that the more fat you carry, the less of a benefit fitness seems to have, says study author Peter Nordström, Ph.D.
And that might be because the inflammation sparked by fat tissue may override the anti-inflammatory hormones produced by exercise, which would otherwise work to reduce your risk of metabolic and heart disease, says Davy.
So simply exercising is not always enough. You need to reduce your visceral fat—the type most linked to serious health issues—with a workout programme that builds metabolism-revving muscle, and pick a meal plan that helps you cut unwanted pounds. Want to boost your metabolism in just 10 simple steps. We’ve got you covered.
Why Being ‘Fat but Fit’ is worse than not exercising at all