Getting Fat but Staying Fit?

Can exercise defend against health conditions related to being overweight?
Silvia JansenCan exercise defend against health conditions related to being overweight?

Does being physically fit counteract some of the undesirable health consequences of being overweight? That question, of pressing interest to those of us who exercise while carrying a few extra pounds, prompted an important new study that focused on aerobic fitness and weight swings.

The study, which was published last month in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examined health information about more than 3,100 adults who’d visited the Cooper Clinic in Dallas for medical checkups. During the exams, physicians gathered information about each person’s cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, cholesterol profile, abdominal girth and body fat percentage. They also measured the patients’ aerobic fitness using treadmill tests.

For years, scientists and the news media have been debating the relative risks of being fat but fit. While it might seem as if aerobic fitness could ameliorate many of the health problems associated with extra body fat, studies on the topic have produced mixed results. Some have suggested that being in shape virtually eliminates the health risks of extra pounds, especially in terms of heart health. But others have come to the opposite conclusion, finding that excess fat contributes to heart disease and premature death, even if someone is physically active.


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