Can You Be Fit And Fat?

Many of us would describe the ideal runner’s body as lean, lanky, lithe. But then someone who is none of those things blows past us in a 5-K, leaving us questioning what ‘fit’ really looks like.

Some doctors say people who are overweight (body-mass index, or BMI, of 25 to 29.9) or obese (BMI above 30) will face health issues, regardless of how often – or fast – they run.

But some studies show that heavy people who exercise can be cardiovascularly healthy and may live longer than their sedentary but skinny peers.

We asked two experts to, ahem, weigh in.

Dr Glenn Gaesser, director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Centre at Arizona State University, says yes, you can be fit and fat.

Dr Amy Weinstein, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who studies the impact of obesity and exercise on disease, disagrees. Here’s why.

Is it possible to be overweight and healthy?

Pro: Virtually every weight-related health problem can be greatly improved or cured with a moderate level of exercise, even if you’re overweight. The amount of exercise necessary to achieve a fitness level that greatly reduces disease and mortality risk is the equivalent of brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or running 20 to 30 minutes a day, three days a week.

Con: Based on research I’ve seen and studies I’ve performed, it appears that physical activity cannot completely reverse the ill effects of carrying excess weight on diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The reason for this is unclear. There may be hormones and proteins that regulate weight and affect chronic diseases, which physical activity cannot reverse.

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3 Responses to Can You Be Fit And Fat?

  1. bernard masano 7 August 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    No you cant be fat and fit at the same time. Health and fitness is determined by a person’s body mass index

  2. Andre 24 July 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Bernard, I would have to disagree. Fitness is not determied by you body mass index. I have done two Comrades while still carrying along some excess belly-fat. I have never been that fit in my life but still I could not shake it off. I have also seen other runners doing Comrades and other marathons carrying a lot of excess weight…but don’t tell me they are not fit, it might just be a medical issue or bad eating habits.

  3. Wes Jones 28 July 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    My dad was at his biggest when he won silver at comrades. Fat, yes, fit, most definitely. That was way back in 92, but the cutoff is still the same, and the number of runners who have achieved that is small indeed. Don’t judge a runner by his or her size…

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