Doctors are often telling their patients to watch their weight. But what if you exercise daily while being overweight? Are you healthier than a skinny person who does not exercise at all? Is a skinny person who has no physical activity still healthy? A new study works on answering these questions.

CBS news reports on lack of exercise being more deadly than obesity. The study shows that not exercising is actually more fatal than being overweight. Many people are unaware of this fact as doctors emphasize weight over exercise and people make the assumption that if they are skinny then they are healthy.

How much exercise is enough?

What should your doctor be recommending?

Experts are saying that even twenty to thirty minutes of brisk walking every day could lower the chances of fatality be a large amount.

Dr. Ekelund, a senior investigator scientist in the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, led the study.

He said, “Efforts to encourage small increases in physical activity in inactive individuals likely have significant health benefits. The risk reduction was seen in normal weight, over weight, and obese people. We estimated that eradicating physical inactivity in the population would reduce the number of deaths twice as much as if obesity was eradicated.”

How was the study conducted?

Dr. Ekelund and his colleagues collected information from 334,000 males and females. During a period of around twelve years of follow-up, they measured height, weight, waist circumference and self-reported levels of physical activity and general exercise.

What were the results?

The team found that a normal amount of physical activity (compared with no activity) was the key to decreasing the chances of premature death. The authors found that exercise that burns between 90 and 110 calories a day could lower the danger of an early death by between sixteen percent and thirty percent. The effect of moderate exercise was highest among normal weight people, but even overweight and obese people saw an advantage.

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, commented on the study and its significance.

He said, “The message from this study is clear and simple -- for any given body weight, going from inactive to active can substantially reduce the risk of premature death. The study is a reminder that being both fit and lean is good for health. These are not really disparate challenges, since the physical activity that leads to fitness is also a way of avoiding fatness.”

So how many premature deaths are caused by being overweight or obese?

The team used the most recent data on deaths in Europe. They found that around 337,000 of the 9.2 million deaths of European men and women were connected to obesity. But more significantly, two times that number of deaths could be linked to a lack of exercise.

Experts say that the way the human body is structured, meaning the way the muscoskeletal architecture is, shows that it is designed to move. And without this movement the body is not functioning as it is supposed to be where it would be staying in shape by burning calories.

Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist and exercise physiologist at New York University Medical Center in New York City, commented on the study.

She said, “The adaptations the body makes to regular exercise are nothing short of "astounding," she said. Aerobic exercise ignites the body's immune system, improves mental function, boosts energy, strengthens muscles and bones, and reduces the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.”


Gerry Oginski
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