Men and women in America are bombarded with images of thinness. The majority of the television and magazine advertisements feature slim women, and most of the movies and television shows are peopled by women with small figures. As a result, we all tend to believe that being thin means being fit, while being fat means being unfit. However, this is not always the case!
A report that appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine in August 2008 indicates that overweight people can be metabolically healthy with low levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other cardiovascular risk indicators. Alternately, the report shows that one out of four thin people (those who fell into what is deemed a “healthy” weight range) had at least two risk factors for cardiovascular problems usually associated with obesity. These findings seem to suggest that, in essence, fat people can not only be fit, but in some instances, can be healthier than their slimmer counterparts.
A Question of Terminology
According to experts, the problem may be that we are incorrectly defining the term “overweight.” The normal weight range on the body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of height to weight ratio, is supposed to be a person whose BMI falls between 18.5 and 25. On the other hand, a person with a BMI above 25 is supposed to be overweight. A person whose BMI is above 30 is considered obese. Yet, doctors say that a person with a BMI of 25 is relatively normal and presents no major health concerns in most instances.
Many researchers even say that weight is simply not the best indicator of a person’s overall health. Instead, they believe that a person’s physical fitness (as measured by their performance on a treadmill) offers a much better indication of personal healthiness. This does not mean, of course, that weight management is unimportant. It simply means that, according to experts, fat people who are fit often present a lower cardiovascular risk than thin and unfit people do.
In December 2008, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that death rates among individuals with a BMI between 25 and 30 who were physically fit were actually somewhat lower than those of individuals with “normal” BMIs who were physically unfit. The study essentially shows that fitness level, not BMI, is the greatest predictor of mortality risk. Individuals with the lowest fitness level (as measured by treadmill performance) were four times more likely to die during the 12-year study than individuals with high fitness levels.
With these results in mind, it seems that women need to focus not just on being slim, but on incorporating physical activity into their lives every day. Regardless of whether you have a little too much weight around the middle or whether you could stand to shave a few pounds off those thighs, you can actually increase your overall fitness, the quality and length of your life just by adding exercise to your routine.
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