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‘Fat can be fit’:Study emphasizing physical fitness over weight loss

Fat can be fit indeed as you can can weight and still be in good shape physically.

When it comes to health, a lot of emphasis is placed on losing weight and lowering one’s body mass index (BMI).

Weight loss research may find correlations to lower mortality risk, but a new paper suggests that physical activity should be prioritized over weight loss.

For people who are obese and want to be healthier, shifting the goal away from weight loss may make more sense.

“We want people to know fat can be fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes,” said paper co-author Glenn Gaesser of Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions in a press release. “We understand that in a weight-obsessed culture, programs that are not focused on weight loss may find it difficult to gain traction.

Fat can be fit:We are not opposing to weight loss; we simply believe that it should not be the primary criterion for determining the success of a lifestyle intervention program.”

Researchers examined data from several studies that looked at weight loss, physical activity, or a combination of the two in a paper published in iScience.

They advocate for a weight-neutral approach because a cardiorespiratory fitness or physical activity regimen reduces or eliminates the mortality risk associated with obesity. They define weight-neutral as not being concerned with losing weight.

“40-year trends in obesity prevalence and weight loss attempts indicate that a weight-centric focus on obesity treatment has been largely ineffective,” the authors write.

Regular exercise improves cardiometabolic health, which occurs independently of weight loss.

Experts believe that separating health from weight loss would be a more effective way to improve health and reduce risk for obese people.

“This is especially important when you consider the physiological realities of obesity,” says co-author Siddhartha Angadi of the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development in a press release. “Body weight is a highly heritable trait, and losing weight associates with significant metabolic changes that eventually thwart weight loss maintenance.”

When it comes to researching this area of health, one issue is some previous studies rely on epidemiological studies, which cannot determine the causes of obesity.

These studies collect a variety of data that may be related to body weight, genetic factors, or obesity. To fully investigate a fitness-base approach to getting bodies to a healthy place, randomize clinical trials with control and treatment groups, similar to how new drugs are tested, would be required.

This group of researchers analyzed several of these studies in order to combine the data in order to draw larger conclusions.

“However, these epidemiological studies collectively demonstrate strong and consistent associations, which is why meta-analyses can be useful,” Angadi said in a press release. “The epidemiological evidence in the case of physical activity and fitness is supported by a large body of experimental studies and randomized controlled trials that have established plausible mechanisms for the consistent findings in epidemiological studies.”

According to the paper’s authors, recent fitness research indicates that focusing on physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness consistently results in a lower risk of mortality and heart disease.

One study they cited found that people who maintained at least low physical activity had a 19% lower all-cause mortality risk than similar sedentary people in a study that followed up with people with coronary heart disease for more than 15 years.

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People who engaged in a lot of physical activity fared even better, with a 36% lower risk of dying. Maintaining a physically active lifestyle, according to the authors, may be more feasible than maintaining weight loss.

Read on iScience The Hill contributed to this article
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