Even the ‘Still Overweight’ Benefit from Exercise

A new study suggests that their regular workouts are still contributing to better overall heart health, making them “fat but fit” and helping them live longer.

People who are obese-but-fit have lower resting pulse rates, less body fat, higher lean muscle mass and better heart function than those who are obese and don’t regularly exercise, according to the findings.

“The cultural and clinical practice should start shifting from not just focusing on weight loss for health benefits, but promoting and maintaining a certain exercise level — building up your cardiorespiratory fitness so you can run longer, go up more flights of stairs,” said lead researcher Dr. Grace Liu. She is an assistant professor with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Previous research has shown that higher fitness is associated with lower risk of heart-related death, even in the obese, Liu said. It’s also been shown that people who are obese-but-fit can have a comparable lifespan to fit people of average weight.

For the new study, Liu and her colleagues compared two different groups of obese people who participated in the Dallas Heart Study, a long-term research effort aimed at improving diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of heart disease.

The investigators used data gathered for the study to identify nearly 1,100 participants with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, which is the technical definition of obesity.

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