Exercising Is Not Enough: “You Cannot Be Fat but Healthy

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    New research concludes that physical activity does not reverse the negative effects of excess body weight on cardiovascular health. “Exercise does not seem to offset the negative effects of being overweight. You cannot be fat but healthy”. These are the words of Alejandro Lucía, a researcher at the European University of Madrid and responsible for a study that confirms that physical activity does not cancel the negative effects of excess body weight on heart health.

    The work, published in the ‘European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, of the European Society of Cardiology, comes to challenge the preconceived idea that a physically active lifestyle can completely nullify the harmful effects of overweight and obesity.

    The study, which used data from 527,662 workers in Spain, with a mean age of 42 years and 32% women, the difference between normal weight (with a body mass index of 20-24.9), overweight (25-29.9) and obesity (30 or above) and activity level based on World Health Organization recommendations. In addition, cardiovascular health was determined based on the three main risk factors for heart attack and stroke: diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

    On this basis, at all BMI levels, any activity (whether or not it met the WHO minimum) was associated with a lower likelihood of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, compared with no exercise. “This tells us that everyone, regardless of their body weight, should be physically active to safeguard their health”, says Lucía.

    Meanwhile, at all weight levels, the odds of diabetes and hypertension decreased as physical activity increased: more activity is better, so walking 30 minutes a day is better than walking 15 wraps up the job.

    Being overweight, with obesity, or with cardiovascular risk

    However, overweight and obese participants had a higher cardiovascular risk than their normal-weight peers, regardless of activity levels. As an example, compared to inactive normal-weight individuals, active obese individuals were approximately twice as likely to have high cholesterol, 4 times as likely to have diabetes, and 5 times as likely to have high blood pressure. “The fight against obesity and inactivity is equally important; it should be a joint battle. Weight loss must continue to be a primary objective of health policies, together with the promotion of active lifestyles”, concludes Lucía.

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