‘Fat can be in shape’: fitness rather than weight loss should be the main goal, study finds

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When it comes to health, the focus is on weight loss and body mass index (BMI). Research focused on weight loss may find correlations with a lower risk of death, but a new article suggests more emphasis should be placed on physical activity rather than weight loss.

Shifting the goal of weight loss might make more sense for people who are obese and want to be healthier.

“We’d like people to know that fat can get fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes,” said Glenn Gaesser, co-author of the College of Health Solutions article. from Arizona State University in a Press release. “We realize that in a culture obsessed with weight, it can be difficult for programs that aren’t focused on weight loss to gain traction. We are not necessarily against weight loss; we just think that shouldn’t be the primary yardstick for judging the success of a lifestyle intervention program.

In an article published in iScience, researchers are looking at data from several studies looking at weight loss or physical activity, or a combination of the two. They propose a weight-neutral approach, because a diet focused on cardiorespiratory fitness or physical activity reduces or eliminates the risk of obesity-related mortality. They define weight neutral as not focused on weight loss.

The authors write: “The 40-year trends in the prevalence of obesity and weight loss attempts indicate that a weight-centered focus on the treatment of obesity has been largely ineffective.

Regular exercise also improves cardiometabolic health, and this occurs regardless of weight loss.

By separating health from weight loss, experts believe it would be a more effective way to improve health and reduce risks for obese people.

“This is especially important when considering the physiological realities of obesity,” says co-author Siddhartha Angadi of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia in the press release. “Body weight is a highly inherited trait, and weight loss is associated with substantial metabolic changes that ultimately thwart the maintenance of weight loss.”


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One problem when it comes to studying this area of ​​health is that some previous studies rely on epidemiological studies that cannot determine the causes of obesity. These types of studies collect different types of data that can be correlated with body weight, genetic factors, or obesity. To fully examine a fitness-based approach to getting bodies to a healthy place would require randomized clinical trials with control groups and treatment groups, much like what is done to test new drugs.

This group of researchers analyzed several of these studies to combine the data so that they could attempt to draw broader conclusions.

“Collectively, however, these epidemiological studies demonstrate strong and consistent associations, and that is why meta-analyzes can be useful,” Angadi said in the press release. “In the case of physical activity and fitness, the epidemiological evidence is supported by a large number of experimental studies and randomized controlled trials which have established plausible mechanisms for consistent results of epidemiological studies.”

The authors of the article point out that recent fitness research suggests that focusing on physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness reliably leads to a greater reduction in the risk of death and heart disease. A study they cited found that in a study that followed people with coronary artery disease for more than 15 years, people who maintained at least low physical activity had a 19% lower risk of all-cause mortality. that of similar sedentary people. People with high physical activity performed even better with a 36% lower risk of death. The authors also suggest that maintaining a physically active lifestyle may be more achievable than maintaining weight loss.


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