Moderate exercise like walking confers health benefits to everyone including those who are mildly or severely obese, according to a new study.

Fat people who are fit have the related health benefits: study

New research suggests that people who are obese or severely obese may be fit and, if they are, they have the same or possibly better health benefits from their fitness than do other people. Many studies link obesity with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other health problems.

But the recent study from York University suggests that people who are obese or very obese get the same or better reduction in health risk by doing as little as 150 minutes per week of an activity like walking.

You cannot judge a person’s fitness by what they look like, says study co-author. (CBC)

‘High fitness was very protective’

Of the general population, 80 per cent are fit. In this study, 41per cent of the mildly obese subjects were found to be fit and among the severely obese, 11 per cent were.

“When we’re talking about severe obesity, certainly…being in that high fitness group was very protective,” says Prof. Jennifer Kuk, a co-author of the study. “In fact, there was no difference in the risk of high blood pressure or high glucose or high lipids between the groups even though there is about a 120 or 100-pound (54 or 45-kg) difference between the…groups.”

Prof. Jennifer Kuk says people who are obese get the same or better health benefits from good fitness. (York University)


This result was based on data gathered from 853 Canadians of all ages, sizes and ethnic origins attending weight management clinics in the province of Ontario.

‘Take the focus off body weight’

“The most important message is that you really can’t judge people based on what they look like and know what their health level is,” says Kuk. “If you are struggling with obesity or if you’re not struggling with obesity, it’s really important for you to exercise regardless of whether or not the scale goes down.

“I think that we need to take that focus off your body weight and realize there is a lot more to health than just the scale.”

About 150 minutes of moderate activity are enough to confer health benefits no matter what a person weighs, according to the study.

‘Fitness more challenging the higher the BMI’

Canadian obesity expert Dr. Arya Sharma posted a blog drawing attention to this study. He wrote that we already know that “it is quite possible to mitigate the metabolic risks commonly associated with excess body fat by improving cardiorespiratory fitness. Now, a study….shows this relationship also holds for people with quite severe obesity.”

However he goes on to say that “it is also apparent based on the rather low number of ‘fit’ individuals in the severe obesity category (only about 1 in 10), that maintaining a high level of fitness proves to be more challenging the higher the BMI (body mass index).”

Studies of this kind are important as obesity is increasing in Canada. Now, one in four adults and one in 10 children have clinical obesity. That equals about six million people.

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