Body Size or Exercise: Which Matters Most?
The answer may put you on the path to a more active life.
Given the choice between being slim despite the fact that you never exercise or being overweight despite the fact that you work out all the time, which would you choose?
If you chose slim and no exercise, would it surprise you to know that your health could ultimately be worse than if you'd chosen to be overweight but exercise regularly?
It may be true. Studies suggest that people who are physically active and overweight have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality than people who are inactive and thin. So whether you're slender or voluptuous, big and tall or thin and small, making physical activity a regular part of your life is vital to improving your health and making your RealAge younger.
Weighing In on Health
That's not to say that size doesn't matter at all. The health risks associated with obesity are well documented: increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer. But what you don't hear very often is that you can reduce these risks by being physically active, even if you don't lose weight.
The health risks associated with being slightly or moderately overweight are less clear-cut. Some studies suggest that being moderately overweight is not linked with an increased risk in mortality, particularly among people who are physically fit. And some researchers are advocating a change in the current categories of overweight.
One reason is that some standard weight and size measurements, such as body mass index (BMI), are not accurate predictors of health risks. BMI, for example, doesn't distinguish between fat and muscle, and it doesn't measure visceral fat -- the fat surrounding abdominal organs. Visceral abdominal fat is a significant risk factor for heart disease and metabolic syndrome. So some people with a healthy BMI who carry their weight around their middle may actually be less healthy than people labeled overweight who have better fat distribution.
Bottom line: No matter what your size or your BMI, being inactive increases your risk of heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.
Start with This Goal
To improve your health, aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity most days of the week to help improve your cardiorespiratory fitness. Thirty minutes 4 or 5 days a week might seem like a lot, especially if you haven't been active in a while or you lead a hectic life. But you'll be adding years of good health to your life if you can get yourself to do this on a regular basis.
That's the tricky part, of course: being physically active on a regular basis. Most people are not as active as they should be, and we're all likely to experience times when exercise falls by the wayside. We have our reasons for falling short, but we can overcome these obstacles with the right approach.
So what's stopping you from being consistently active? Read on to determine what your biggest barrier to fitness is and what you can do to overcome it, and start reaping the rewards of exercise.