A new study is dashing the ‘health at every size’ myth, revealing that it isn’t possible to be both fat and healthy at the same time. Researchers warn that an active lifestyle simply isn’t enough to mitigate the inherent health risks that come with obesity, at least the ones related to heart health, putting many people at risk of chronic disease.
The findings come from the European Society of Cardiology, which found that excess body fat puts a strain on the heart and that exercising doesn’t prevent this. The findings follow past studies that have muddied the waters, with some reporting that fitness may help someone who is overweight or obese avoid the heart health complications associated with it.
This new study set out to clarify whether this is the case, doing so by analyzing data on more than 527,000 adults in Spain. Of the participants, 32-percent were women; the entire group had an average age of 42 years. Likewise, 42-percent were normal weight, while 41-percent were classified as overweight and 18-percent were classified as obese.
As well, the data showed that more than 63-percent of the participants lived an inactive lifestyle, 24.2-percent got regular activity, and 12.3-percent were classified as ‘insufficiently active.’ The study goes on to present even more numbers, noting that 15-percent of the participants had high blood pressure, 30-percent had high cholesterol levels, and 3-percent had been diagnosed with diabetes.
First, the good news: the study found that any level of activity, regardless of the person’s BMI, was associated with a lowered risk of developing those three aforementioned conditions. However, the study notes that participants who were overweight or obese faced a greater heart health risk compared to people who were a normal weight.
That risk was elevated across all activity levels, meaning overweight people who were regularly active were still at considerable risk of cardiovascular issues. The study notes that someone who is obese but active faced around double the risk of developing high cholesterol compared to a person who was inactive but who had a normal weight.
The risk increased from there, with active obese adults having four times the likelihood of developing diabetes and five times the risk of high blood pressure compared to inactive normal-weight adults.
The study’s author Dr. Alejandro Lucia said:
One cannot be ‘fat but healthy’. This was the first nationwide analysis to show that being regularly active is not likely to eliminate the detrimental health effects of excess body fat. Our findings refute the notion that a physically active lifestyle can completely negate the deleterious effects of overweight and obesity.