As a society we are obsessed with the idea of thinness, there is a preconceived notion that our level of fatness is the best indicator of our overall health. A recent book, The Obesity Paradox by Cardiologist Carl Lavie, is challenging this conventional wisdom, suggesting that being thin could actually increase your risk of mortality. So what should we pay more attention to, our fitness or fatness?

What does the research say? 

Professor Steven Blair is a thought leader when it comes to this area and has conducted several pivotal studies. He conducted a study of 50000 people, looking at Attributable Fractions and risk of mortality. He looked at blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular fitness and the relationship these had to those who passed away during this study, a total of 4000 people. He found that low cardiovascular fitness was by far the strongest predictor of death.

Another study by Professor Blair looked at the relationship between obesity and exercise. He discovered the following relationships existed
Fat + Unfit = Very High Risk
Thin + Unfit = High Risk
Fat + Fit = Low Risk
Thin + Fit = Very Low Risk

It is important to note that this research isn’t saying being overweight is good for us. Rather that being fit can help negate the impacts of being overweight and if we are looking for the best marker or key performance indicator for decreasing risk of death, use your level of fitness rather than what the scales tell you.

The Role of Fitness in Longevity

Dr Lavie’s own research goes on to suggest that the rise in obesity over recent years isn’t based solely on changes to our nutritional intake but correlates with the dramatic decline in our physical activity levels. The message of ‘you should take up some exercise to lose weight’ is incorrect, as it is not the weight loss that brings the benefit but the increase in physical activity.

We need to drop our obsession with body shape, and instead focus on our levels of fitness. To increase your fitness and decrease your risk of mortality:

  • Do at least two 15 minute sessions a week of high intensity interval training
  • Limit the time you spend sitting everyday by incorporating as much low intensity movement as possible
  • Don’t fool yourself into thinking just because you are skinny you are healthy
  • Focusing purely on your nutrition and going for the occasional walk is not enough to promote good health and life longevity

How do you stay fit?

Ready to implement a wellbeing program with tangible benefits for everyone involved?