There are tubby folks out there who bust the BMI scale, yet are fitter than some of their leaner counterparts. “These people have the genetic predisposition to be stocky, yet engage in regular exercise,” says Dr Steve Blair, an epidemiologist and president of the Cooper Institute. So, you’re considered fit even if you’re slightly overweight (not obese), but meet the oft-recommended cumulative 30 minutes of moderate-intensity daily exercise (such as walking), says Blair. He also found that being moderately fit (as compared to being unfit) will lessen your chance of death by about 50 per cent – good news for fat but fit people who can’t lose weight. That said, this is still no excuse for not trying to shed the kilos, if you can.
Guys who are lean but physically inactive – bad news. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that lean but sedentary types had a 55 per cent greater chance of dying prematurely compared to lean and active people. In other words, just because they are lean doesn’t mean they are healthy or fit.
It seems that many people classified as obese by current standards – for example, the BMI – actually have a good health profile, says Blair. In his study, he found that as many as 40 per cent of these obese individuals had normal cholesterol and blood pressure, didn’t smoke and were physically fit. This is good news for people who struggle with their weight, he adds.
While you may be a fit fatty, you still have to be careful about the fats piling on around your belly. According to Oxford University’s Konstantinos Manolopoulos, stomach fat breaks down easily into substances called cytokines, which have been linked to heart disease, insulin resistance and diabetes. In fact, research on mice revealed that belly fat boosts inflammation and is linked with the hardening of the arteries – a sign of heart attack risk.