Take two people, one overweight, one not, and stand them side by side.

From today’s SMH:

Take two people, one overweight, one not, and stand them side by side.

Next, ask passers-by to choose which of the two they think is the most physically fit. Most will probably select the thinner person on the assumption – mistaken, as it turns out – that it is impossible to be both overweight and in shape.

After all, how can the term “in shape” be applied to someone whose very shape fails to conform to society’s image of physical fitness?

But researchers who study exercise physiology have, over the past few years, been coming to the surprising conclusion that it is possible to be both fit and fat. And a small but growing number of fitness experts have begun preaching the gospel that it is better to be overweight and active than to be thin and sedentary.

“Long-term weight loss is an admirable goal, but it’s extremely difficult,” said Tim Church, medical director of the Dallas-based Cooper Institute, where much of the earliest research on fitness and obesity was conducted. “Even if you can’t lose that extra weight, you can still get the benefits of being physically active.”

In other words, exercise is good for everyone, no matter how much he or she weighs.

But what about all those studies that link obesity to heart disease, diabetes and a raft of other illnesses?

“Most don’t take into account whether the people in the study were physically active or not,” Dr Church said. “That’s like studying cancer and not asking the subjects whether they smoke or not.”

Go read the rest of the article.

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