New studies show that being fat really doesn't matter in terms of health: it's 'metabolic fitness' that makes all the difference.
'Metabolic fitness' is the all-encompassing term experts use to describe health problems like high blood pressure, cholesterol and raised blood sugar levels.
The surprising claims come from a study carried out by researchers at the University of South Carolina, who drew their conclusions from the health records of 43,000 (mainly) Caucasian, well educated, professional Americans.
Over one third (18,500) of the sample was classed as obese. However, of those 18,500 obese people, half appeared to be perfectly fit, with no trace of high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes after physical examinations and lab tests.
These 'fat but fit' people generally exercised more than those who were found to have health problems, which as much as halved their chances of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer and put them on the same level as people who are considered to be of an 'ideal weight'.
Amy Thompson of the British Heart Foundation said: "In the majority of cases, obesity is an undeniable risk factor for developing coronary heart disease. However, these studies remind us that it is not always your weight that's important, but where you carry fat and also how it affects your health and fitness."
As long as you keep active and meet the UK government-recommended quota of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week OR 20 minutes of intensive exercise three times a week, it may not matter how heavy the scales say you are.
Although fat may not be an indication of fitness levels, it is important to try to lose excess weight around the middle. Tummy fat cells are particularly active and produce toxic substances that cause damage leading to heart disease.
There are simple ways to introduce more exercise into your daily regime without involving gruelling gym sessions or sweaty 10k runs. Remember - every minute of activity counts. For example, if you work in an office, use a toilet on another floor instead of the one down the corridor. Jogging up and down one or two flights of stairs a few times a day will make a difference to your fitness levels and keep your metabolism up all day.
A life coach can be hired to advise you on health and fitness. You can find more information on our Health page.
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