Overweight people shouldn’t be discouraged if they aren’t losing weight from regular exercise.
A new study suggests that frequent exercise still provides better overall heart health, making them ‘fat but fit’ and extending life expectancy.
Obese-but-fit people can get lower resting pulse rates, reduced body fat, higher lean muscle mass, and a more efficient heart than larger people that don’t regularly exercise, the study finds.
“The cultural and clinical practice should start shifting from not just focusing on weight loss for health benefits, but really promoting and maintaining a certain exercise level — building up your cardiorespiratory fitness so you can run longer, go up more flights of stairs,” said lead researcher Dr. Grace Liu. She is an assistant professor with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“That itself, even if you don’t lose weight, is going to lead to beneficial changes that end up leading to you having a longer life span,” Liu continued.
The study findings were presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago.
Liu and her team compared two different groups of obese people who were a part of the Dallas Heart Study, a long-term research initiative focused on improving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of heart disease.
Taking the data from nearly 1,100 participants with a BMI of 30 or more, or the technical definition of obesity, obese-but-fit people had 44 percent lower pulse rates, 37 percent better heart function and 43 percent lower body fat than those who were obese and unfit.
Liu hopes the results encourage people who began exercise to lose weight, but haven’t been able to lose it, to keep up with their healthy changes.
“The majority of the people reach a plateau where they no longer lose weight even though they’re still active and exercising, and trying to build up their fitness,” Liu said. “At that point, even if you stay the same weight, you’re still gaining the benefits of having higher fitness.”
The primary benefit for larger people comes from increasing lean muscle mass, says Dr. Salim Virani, an associate professor of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
“Muscles are very good at taking care of excess sugars in your blood,” decreasing your risk of diabetes and its heart-related complications, Virani explained.
“Even if you are obese, there is a lot of hope by becoming physically fit. Just being physically active adds a lot of mileage in terms of cardiovascular health. It’s not all about losing weight. There’s a lot more to becoming physically active.”
Photo Credit: Pretty Vectors/Shutterstock.com; rangizzz/Shutterstock.com