Should your focus be on losing weight or getting fitter?

Most people know that obesity is not good for your health, but what some don’t know is that it’s actually physical inactivity that’s a bigger risk factor for disease and death. Physical inactivity is the 4th biggest risk factor for death behind tobacco smoking, high blood pressure and high blood glucose. So as long as you stop smoking, being physically active can help reduce the 2nd, 3rd and 4th leading causes of death.

A study published by Barry et al in 2014 compared the risk of death in overweight people to unfit people. Almost 93,000 people in the study were divided into 6 groups:

  1. Normal weight and fit (BMI 18-25)*
  2. Normal weight and unfit
  3. Overweight and fit (BMI 25 – 30)
  4. Overweight and unfit
  5. Obese and fit (BMI > 30)
  6. Obese and unfit

The good news is, the fit groups weren’t even that fit, they were just the top 80% of cardiorespiratory fitness in the group based on VO2 testing and the unfit group were the bottom 20%.

All groups were followed over a long period of time and illness and death in each group was recorded.

*The risk of death in each group was compared to the risk in the fit group with normal weight, which was used as the control group.

The fit groups who were overweight and obese had a small, insignificantly increased risk of death compared to the fit group with normal weight (1.13 and 1.21 more times likely to die respectively).

All three unfit groups had an alarmingly increased risk of death compared to the fit group with normal weight – even the unfit group with normal weight.

The unfit normal weight group were 2.42 times more likely to die than their fit counterparts, with a 2.14 times increased risk in the unfit overweight group and 2.46 times more risk in the unfit obese group.

This study shows that it’s much more important to get fit than to lose weight. It’s time for you to start exercising to get maximum health gains.

How much exercise do I need to do?

  • The World Health Organization recommends that adults undertake 150 minutes of moderate physical activity such as walking per week
  • This equates to half an hour per day for 5 days a week
  • Each 30 minutes per day can be split into 3 x 10 minute bouts of activity if needed
  • Alternatively, the same benefits are derived from 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (eg jogging or other aerobic exercise)
  • Additional health benefits are achieved when the amount of exercise is increased to 300 minutes of moderate activity (60 minutes each day for 5 days) or 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week
  • It is also recommended for you to additionally participate in resistance training for all the major muscle groups twice per week

It’s time to stop worrying if you’re overweight or not and start getting physically active. Not only will it reduce your risk of death and disease, it will make you feel good and have positive physical effects too.

If you are unsure about how to start an exercise program for the first time or how to change what you already do to get maximum benefits, a consultation at Shire Sports Medicine can give you individualised advice to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.