T Nation

Fit But Fat

Its not too often I find a useful health and fitness article in the mainstream media:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/HEALTH/diet.fitness/12/22/toned.and.trim.ap/index.html

Study: Fit but fat not good enough
Excess weight can take years off your life despite exercise

Being fit but fat isn’t good enough. Excess weight, all by itself, can take years off your life, even if you get plenty of exercise, a study found.

“There has been some suggestion that if you are particularly active, you don’t have to worry about your body weight, about your diet. That’s very misleading,” said the report’s lead author, Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health.

The study of 116,500 women was published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine and was based on questionnaires used in the Nurses’ Health Study, which has followed female nurses since 1976, and on death certificates and medical records.

Women who were physically active but obese had almost twice the risk of death of women who were both active and lean. Women who were sedentary but slender were 55 percent more likely to die. Women who were both sedentary and obese were almost 2 1/2 times more likely to die.

“Being physically active did not cancel out the increased mortality of overweight. Being lean did not counterbalance the risk effect of being sedentary,” Hu said.

An editorial by David R. Jacobs Jr. and Mark A. Pereira of the University of Minnesota noted that the study relied on nurses’ reports of exercise and weight rather than direct measurement, and did not include light to moderate exercise – the form most Americans get.

Dr. Timothy Church of the Cooper Institute, which is devoted to research on exercise and health, praised the findings. “If you’re lean but you’re sedentary, don’t fool yourself. You’re still at risk. You need to get physically active,” he said.

Great post, nice read.

Not new news to many here (hopefully) but good to see the mainstream starting to take notice.

Thanks for the post,
Phill

“Women who were physically active but obese had almost twice the risk of death of women who were both active and lean. Women who were sedentary but slender were 55 percent more likely to die. Women who were both sedentary and obese were almost 2 1/2 times more likely to die.”

Maybe I’m just crazy but doesn’t everyone have the same risk of dying? Maybe they’re refering to at this very moment but still that is an awkward paragraph.

yeah…the title was ackward too…fit but fat? all it talked about was active but fat. actually being fit is a little different…

i saw a feature in Men’s Health(or one of those mags) about a triathlete who was about 20%(beer gut and everything) bodyfat…but he still placed in the top 20% of most of his races. i think he’ll be fine…

Great article, JP!

Thanks!

I think that people will always come up with little titles and antedotes to justify terrible Lifestyles…“Fit but Fat” is one of them…

By the way…there is a HUGE difference between being simply overweight based on some standard measure (like Insurance Tables) and being overfat/morbidly Obese…

There are a lot of Pro and Olympic athletes who are “overweight” at 7% bodyfat…

Regrettably it’s the overfat who often come up with the most excuses…

Mufasa

Great topic and comments!

Actually, if you study larger athletes, even those with lower BF, excess muscle mass does indeed shorten their lives! It’s shitty, but true. Generally, the taller/larger framed person has a shorter life span. It almost directly correlates to height. As much as I hate the BMI and USDA guidlines, I think they are trying to say in one way or another that males at 5-10, 170, 10-12% BF, practicing regular exercise do indeed have the longest lifespan.

Any time the heart has to pump more blood and in greater volume it puts more stress on it… regardless of fitness level. The heart actually enlarges in weight trained athletes, which is another factor in a shortened lifespan. Obviously I would never tell someone not be very muscular and lean, but I just wanted to point out the truth. So, that triathlete at 20% bodyfat could expect to live a slightly shorter lifespan than his triathlete peers. Just as the article says, excess weight is excess weight.

Then again, because of medical science/technology, we have chain smokers and McD’s bingers living into their 60’s. So, if you eat/live just a tad better than they do and rely on surgery/medicine to save your ass, that you might live into your 70’s and then some! I guess it’s all relative…

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[quote]TopSirloin wrote
excess muscle mass does indeed shorten their lives!

Any time the heart has to pump more blood and in greater volume it puts more stress on it… regardless of fitness level.
Top[/quote]

Not quite following you here.

Your cardio-vascular system can be strengthened, conditioned and improved by exercise. Just being skinny doesn’t mean that your heart’s not working very inefficiently. The greater volume argument seems to imply that everyone has a fixed capacity–like so much money on a toll pass: once you exceed it, you expire. But that’s not quite how it works. Your cardio-vascular health is affected by how you live, not just genetics or bulk size.

If a big man is placing a unhealthy stress on his heart, that will show up in his resting pulse, VO2 max, and so on. Not in his BMI.

The fat but fit article showed that excess body fat was still harmful, not excess muscle mass.

That being said, just in my experience, people who have a natural tendency to bulk up–muscle or fat–do seem to have more heart problems. In particular, I’ve seen two barrel-chested boyos just fall like chopped trees from heart attacks: in both cases, no second chance.

So I’m wondering–not that I have sufficent data–if mesomorphs tend more to cardio problems.

Be interesting to find out about the T-Nation members.

Yowerser-

Yes, the heart does become more efficient by increasing in stroke volume and enlarging. However, there seems to be a point where indeed there is an obsolute workload that negates the positives of being fit. Again, your Shaq-type body is a good example. How fit is he? He has ran and jumped for a couple hours a day for 2 decades (grade school, college, pros). Espcecially, now that he has slimmed down, he appears to be very, very fit, lower BF, and tremendously efficient at cardiovasular exercise. Yet, from my findings thus far, he can expect to have a shorter lifespan due to his shear size and excess weight above what’s necessary to be healthy - even excess muscle causes the heart to work harder. The heart can only be so efficient - it can only pump so much blood so many times before it wears out. I know this isn’t very scientific… to say the least, so I’ll work on digging up the studies I saw on this.

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