You often hear that to be fit and healthy, you should focus 20% on exercise and 80% on diet. But recent studies argue that we have that ratio wrong.
It has been proven over the past 40 year that people around the world have been trying to lose weight and yet obesity has continued to rise.
The authors of this new study argue that it is quite possible to be “fat and fit” and that people should concentrate on exercise rather than dieting for a longer life. From their review of previous research, they conclude that when it comes to getting healthy and cutting the risk of dying early, doing more exercise and improving your fitness is more effective than focusing on shedding pounds.
“A weight-centric approach to obesity treatment and prevention has been largely ineffective” Prof Gaesser said. “Moreover, repeated weight loss efforts may contribute to weight gain, and is undoubtedly associated with the high prevalence of weight cycling (yo-yo dieting), which is associated with significant health risks.”
We often vilify obesity, they say, even though a lack of exercise can be equally harmful. “Many obesity-related health conditions are more likely attributable to low physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness rather than obesity itself” they suggest.
“Epidemiological studies show that cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity significantly attenuate and sometimes eliminate, the increased mortality risk associated with obesity” said Prof Gaesser.
Previous studies have also found that “increasing physical activity or cardiorespiratory fitness is consistently associated with greater reduction in risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than intentional weight loss”.
“Shifting the focus away from weight loss as the primary goal and instead focusing on increasing physical activity to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, may be prudent for treating obesity-related health conditions” they say.
“We’re not necessarily against weight loss; we just think that it should not be the primary criterion for judging the success of a lifestyle intervention programme” said Prof Gaesser.
While, in a weight and diet obsessed culture, it is challenging to get people to adhere to a programme that is not focused on weight loss, “we would like people to know that fat can be fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.”