If there is one common thread between patients coming to the Weight Center, it is that they are here because of concerns about their health. Whether the goal is to improve current health issues affecting their life right now, or prevent health issues from limiting their life in the future, health is a big motivator for weight loss.
It has been known for some time that elevated body weight is a health risk. It has also been known for a while that low fitness level is a health risk as well. Recently, there has been a debate over which is more “important” and a better predictor of health and longevity. Weight or fitness level?
Weight is much easier to measure, to see, to “assess”, than fitness level. We can tend to assume that someone who is slim is “fit”. In reality, they might not be fit at all! Since fitness is not easily assessed and measured , how do we know if we are fit enough? There are many components to being fit as well, so to measure all aspects of fitness we would need several tests. These are some of the reasons why weight tends to be a focus for assessing health; it is just easier to measure than fitness level.
But which really gives you more health and longevity for your efforts: focusing on fitness or weight? Over the past two years there have been large scale studies and analysis of large scale studies to answer this question. And the answer (drum roll please….)
“After completing the meta-analysis on the joint association between Cardio-respiratory fitness and Body Mass Index (BMI) on mortality (death) from all causes, the results indicate that the risk of death was dependent upon cardio-respiratory fitness level and not BMI. Therefore, fit individuals who are overweight or obese are not automatically at a higher risk for all-cause mortality” (Fitness vs. Fatness on All-Cause Mortality: A Meta-analysis)
Translation: Being fit provides protection from dying from any cause at all weight levels.
Simply put… to protect your health at any weight keep moving!
Does that mean we give up on weight loss efforts? Nope! This is just looking at risk of dying too early. Patients also describe being healthy as the freedom to live life fully without their body limiting them anymore.
Reducing the amount of weight on our body is an important part of that freedom to live life fully. However, it is not the whole story. Being at an ideal weight, but at a low fitness level not only increases mortality, it also limits the ability to live life fully. In fact, that is the definition of fitness for well-being.
However…. we still tend to focus on the scale more than fitness. For example, when patients say “I was doing so well with exercise, but not losing weight, so I stopped exercising.” This is a sign that we are missing what fitness is really about. When exercise is just for the purpose of losing weight, we miss out on the great health and longevity benefits that fitness gives at any weight, any age, and with any health history.
So, please do not sell yourself short! Don’t miss out because you have your eye on the prize on that scale. The scale is a very poor predictor of health and well-being compared to how fit you are.
Still, we have that issue of measuring. How do we know if we are fit? Check out the blogs I wrote a few weeks ago about fitness for health and well-being. Your best fitness measure is how much you can do what you need to do in life with energy left over for fun and for emergencies. Follow the guidelines for the parts of fitness we have discussed in the past: cardiovascular, strength training, flexiblity and lifestyle activity . Use these as guides for fitness that can help you will reach your goal to improve health while losing weight.
Keep Moving, Be Well,
Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery. Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center
These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.