Fitness can be more important than weight loss for health and longevity


December 28, 2021 – The numbers are lighter. Maybe that’s why a person weight – and the desire of millions of people to lose weight – is the first topic discussed when it comes to health and longevity. Shortly after you enter the doctor’s examination room, for example, you will step on the scales. This is usually the first measurement they take, ahead of vital signs like blood pressure and heart rate.

This makes sense. It’s a number, which means it’s easy to see if your weight has changed in any direction since the last time you were weighed.

But there is an unintended result: you leave thinking that your weight is just as important as how well your heart and blood vessels work, and that losing a few pounds will improve your health in a tangible, long-lasting way.

Yes, weight loss has proven health benefits. But should weight loss be a top priority for anyone classified as “excessive” or “excessive”obese”- a demographics that now includes three-quarters of all adult Americans?

“The weight loss message doesn’t work, nor has it worked,” he says Dr. Glenn Gaesser, professor of exercise science at Arizona State University.

He is among a growing number of health experts who believe that weight loss may not be the most important advantage when it comes to adopting a healthier lifestyle. This is especially true if you compare this to the benefits of increasing your fitness level, as Gaesser and co-authors did in a recent study.

Intentional weight loss – that is, intentional weight loss rather than injury or illness – is usually associated in studies with a lower risk of death from any cause. The effect is strongest among those with obesity and / or type 2 diabetes.

But here’s an interesting struggle: The amount Weight loss does not seem to change the risk of dying. If the problem is weight itself, why wouldn’t those who lost the most get the biggest risk reduction?

Gaesser is skeptical that the health benefits of weight loss are entirely or even mostly caused by lower numbers on the scale. Many clinical trials of weight loss – studies in which people participate in a structured program – also include exercise and dietary components.

More exercise and better eating are consistently and strongly associated with a lower risk of death from any cause. And “health benefits of exercise and diet does not depend much on weight loss, ”says Gaesser.

This is especially true for exercise and longer life. Studies show that increasing physical activity reduces the risk of death from any cause by 15% to 50% and the risk of heart disease by up to 40%.

The change is even more dramatic when you exercise with enough effort to improve your heart condition. Moving from the lowest fitness category to a higher one can reduce the risk of mortality by 30% to 60%.

The challenge is to stick to it

But here are three: Exercise only helps if you do it, and a higher level of fitness works best if you maintain it.

“Adherence to exercise is just as challenging as adherence diet“Says Gaesser. “I think one of the reasons is that exercise is promoted primarily as a means of losing weight.”

It’s not that exercise doesn’t work at all if you’re trying to lose weight. According to a review According to studies published in 2010, the average weight loss ranges from 3 to 8 pounds, mainly due to fat loss.

The problem is that the amount of weight you lose solely through exercise is usually disappointing. Your body will make up for the many calories you burn during exercise (28%, according to one study) by slowing down your metabolism in other ways. Exercising can also increase your appetite, knocking down any calorie savings per loop.

“If a person starts an exercise program with a specific weight loss goal, that person will quickly see that there is a big gap between‘ actual ’and‘ expected ’weight loss,” Gaesser explains. “Most will give up out of frustration.”

That’s why he says our greatest hope is for people to finally understand how important exercise is for long-term vitality, and for doctors and other health professionals to encourage their patients and clients to sit down to exercise for their health and longer life. Still, he admits that exercise is hard to sell once you take off the promise of weight loss.

If there is an encouraging conclusion, it is this: It doesn’t matter why you exercise, how you do it, or if you’re not in achieving your goals.

“There are health benefits to the effort,” says Gaesser. “Exercise has intrinsic value, regardless of changes in body weight.”

WebMD Health News


Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., Professor of Exercise Physiology, College of Health Solutions, Arizona State University.

CDC, National Center for Health Statistics: “Obesity and overweight.”

iScience: “Obesity Treatment: Weight Loss versus Increasing Fitness and Physical Activity to Reduce Health Risks.”

Reviews of obesity: “The effect of exercise on weight loss, changes in body composition and weight maintenance in adults with overweight or obesity.”

Current biology: “Energy compensation and fat in humans.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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