Which is Better: Fit and Fat or Skinny and Unfit?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For many years, research has linked being overweight or obese with a variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But a new study claims that weight might not be the best predictor of overall health.

In a study from The Archives of Internal Medicine, the weight and cardiovascular risk factors of over 5,000 adults were analyzed. The results are a little surprising: Half of the overweight people and over one-third of the obese people in the study were “metabolically healthy.” This means that even though they were carrying extra pounds, it didn’t influence their cholesterol, blood pressure or other measures that indicate risk of heart disease.

Size doesn’t always equate with health. In this study, about one out of four people who fell into the “healthy” weight range had at least two cardiovascular risk factors typically associated with obesity. So maybe you shouldn’t be jealous of your thin friend who eats whatever she wants and never exercises--she might not be as healthy as you’d think.

Several studies from the Cooper Institute show that fitness level is a much better indicator of health than BMI. People who are overweight (or obese) but can still keep up on treadmill tests have much lower heart risk than people who are slim and unfit.

What does this mean for you? First, the number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story and should not determine whether you’re a success or failure at becoming healthy. In reality that number is, well, just a number. What’s sometimes more important is whether or not you can walk up a set of stairs without being totally winded, or could easily walk the local 5K without wondering if you’ll be able to finish. I remember during my first marathon, I was passed by a woman who didn’t look like your typical athlete. She was overweight, but obviously fit enough to complete a 26.2 mile race (and made me look like I was moving in slow-motion).

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to overall health, so make sure you step back and look at the big picture. Research like this proves that it’s not only size that matters.