Fit, Not Fat

A study by Harvard-affiliated researchers published in the Archives of Internal Medicine challenges the notion that you can be fat and fit.  They found that being active can lower, but not eliminate heart risks faced by women who are fat or obese.

This new study involved nearly 39,000 women, average age of 54, who filled out a questionnaire at the beginning of the study detailing their height, weight and amount of weekly physical activity in the past year, including walking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming.  They were then tracked for approximately 11 years.

Women were considered “active” if they followed government-recommended guidelines, and got at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.  Women who got less exercise than that were considered “inactive.” Weight was evaluated by body mass index (BMI):  a BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight, and 30 or higher is considered obese.

Compared with normal-weight active women, the risk for developing heart disease was 54% higher in overweight active women, and 87% higher in obese active women.  By contrast, the risk for developing heart disease was 88% higher in overweight inactive women and 2 1/2 times greater in obese inactive women.

About two in five American women at age 50 will eventually develop heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems according to the Associated Press report (4/29/08).  Excess weight can raise those odds in numerous ways, such as increasing blood pressure and increasing the risks for diabetes, as well as increasing “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.  Exercise counteracts all three.

If there’s one place in the world where there is no excuse for being inactive, it’s southern California.  Between the glorious weather, the hiking trails in the mountains, marked bicycle lanes and more, it’s almost impossible to excuse or explain being out of shape.