Exercising isn’t just about losing weight, but in a world where obesity is closely associated with poor health, it’s hard not to make weight loss a primary goal.
A new editorial by three U.S. cardiologists explains why this was such a big mistake.
Even without burning visceral fat, emerging evidence suggests that physical activity can still improve the health of our hearts, thereby extending our lives.
When it comes to improving health, cardiologists — Karl Lavi, Robert Ross, and Ian Nyland — believe that simply increasing the amount of physical activity is more important than focusing on weight loss.
This argument is controversial and will undoubtedly spark further debate, but the authors clearly lay out their supporting evidence.
In particular, cardiologists focused on publications in International Journal of Obesity In August, a measure of exercise was found to be a better predictor of long-term health than a person’s body mass index or body fat content.
Among 116,228 adults, the study found that increased physical activity essentially eliminated most of the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular-related death over the next 12 years.
This is the case even if a person’s waistline increases during the same period.
“This finding is fully consistent with a number of observations showing that exercise is associated with a broad range of health outcomes, with little or no weight loss,” the cardiologists wrote in their editorial.
“However, a large body of evidence suggests that focusing solely on weight loss as the sole determinant of the success of strategies aimed at reducing obesity is unreasonable and, more importantly, eliminates the need to focus on other potentially important lifestyle behaviours associated with substantial health. Opportunity benefits.”
In other words, physicians may fail patients by overemphasizing weight loss and neglecting to reduce sedentary behaviors.
While the editorial’s authors acknowledge “substantial and clear evidence” that obesity is a health risk factor, they also point to an “obesity paradox” in which obesity is sometimes associated with a lower risk of mortality.
In recent years, scientists from various fields have criticized modern medicine’s narrow view of obesity.
Last year, two exercise physiologists proposed a “weight-neutral strategy” for obesity treatment in a 2021 review.
Even without weight loss, the 2021 review found that exercise improved most markers of cardiometabolic risk associated with obesity. At the same time, weight loss was not always associated with a lower risk of death.
In fact, a recent study of 10,000 heart disease patients found that people with better cardiorespiratory fitness were more likely to survive the next 15 years, regardless of their BMI, body fat or waist circumference.
“By adopting an active lifestyle and a healthy diet, obesity and associated health risks can be greatly reduced even with minimal weight loss, this finding is encouraging and provides practitioners and adults with information about overweight/ Additional options for successful treatment of obesity,” the new editorial argues.
The editorial’s authors also looked into the matter. For example, they point to a 2018 analysis by Lavie that found changes in physical activity were better predictors of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. At the same time, weight loss did not show this risk reduction.
Evidence is mounting that the relationship between physical activity, heart health and fat loss is not as simple as many of us believe.
If a person is active enough, some experts believe they should be considered healthy regardless of their weight.
Given the disparity between weight loss and weight gain, these recent findings put more power in the hands of individuals.
If you want to feel fit, you probably just need to get moving.
Editorials published in International Journal of Obesity.