Can You Be Fat AND Fit?

Healthy diet, incorporated exercise and… still overweight? Can people actually be fit and fat? Studies in the past defended overweight individuals’ potential athleticism by saying that yes, one can be both. Now, however, there are studies opposing earlier research. It is becoming increasingly controversial, but recent studies say that one cannot be both fat and fit. What are we to believe?


When 2012 Olympic participants like British swimmer Rebecca Adlington or Australian swimmer Leisel Jones, who appeared to carry some extra pounds, can compete in an international athletic event, what are we supposed to think? Plus, being overweight does not always result in diabetes, high blood pressure or other issues, which is another reason people have considered some fat people healthy in the past. However, people who are overweight do have greater chances of being diagnosed with these particular health concerns, and that’s not something to ignore.

They also have an increased likelihood of dying sooner from heart disease than their healthy-weight counterparts, according to research conducted by Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada. The study concluded that, even when overweight individuals had healthy metabolic rates (no diabetes or hypertension), they had a higher risk of dying during the study period or experiencing a heart-related event than did individuals with normal weights. In other words, the study seemingly debunked previous research defending “benign obesity” and ”metabolically healthy obesity.”

Some of the opposing results came from a 2012 study conducted by The National Cancer Institute. According to this study, individuals who were moderately obese lived about three years longer than men and women of normal weight. The European Heart Journal published another study that stated when obese people have healthy metabolic rates they actually don’t have a higher risk of death than others. These studies take a stance: A person can be fit and fat. But how can both sides of the argument ring true?

You have to ask, with all of these studies being conducted, how and why is there any controversy at all? Those who have conducted research recently (specifically those at Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute) believe that earlier trials were not comparing groups in the best way. They didn’t classify subjects as healthy and normal weight vs. healthy and overweight, for example. Rather than comparing these two groups, studies included healthy (without diabetes or hypertension) obese individuals and unhealthy obese individuals – or, the trials did not set up the groups properly overall.

Other studies did not investigate metabolic rate, leaving key health factors like diabetes, hypertension or high cholesterol out of the results. These are the things that really matter, as Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute also gathered that, regardless of weight, individuals with an unhealthy metabolic rate were the ones with the most health risks. So when studies were done overlooking these concepts, how could the results not be skewed?

Until further research can be conducted on the matter, we may be left scratching our heads. What remains evident, however, is that exercise is never a bad thing. Whether movement helps you achieve a normal weight or not, activity can lower your risk for high blood pressure, heart issues and more. So regardless of which side you take in this controversy, you can’t deny the power of exercise.

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