When it comes to living a long and healthy life, a meta-analysis of mortality studies finds that being physically active, no matter what your weight, trumps being thin and unfit.
Researchers at Middle Tennessee State University, led by exercise scientist Vaughn Barry, Ph.D., examined 10 past studies that recorded information about participants' body mass indexes and fitness levels. The studies looked at the weight and fitness levels of thousands of participants (the largest one included 21,856 people) and continued to follow up with the participants over several years, ranging from an average of 7.7 years to an average of 16 years. ...
They found that fitness levels, not weight, predicted whether or not a participant had died in the study's intervening years. Unfit people, regardless of their weight, had twice the risk of dying during the study than fit people, and overweight and obese people who were fit had similar mortality risks as fit, normal weight participants. Another way of putting it: thin, unfit people had twice the mortality risk as obese fit people.
The study was recently published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.
Fat But Fit? Study Reveals That Fitness, Not Weight, Predicts Risk Of Early Death
But wait, that's not all.
From The Daily Mail (published 2 December 2013):
Canadian scientists carried out research examining 61,000 people from the 1950s to the present day
The study strongly refuted the suggestion that a person's physical fitness is more important than their weight
Evidence showed despite a person having normal blood pressure and being able to process sugar easily, excess weight alone remains critical ...
There is no such thing as being fat and healthy, scientists warn.
They have strongly refuted suggestions that a person’s physical fitness is more important than their weight. ...
The theory was that good metabolic fitness, that is, having normal blood pressure and being able to process sugar easily, would protect people from the consequences of obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes.
However, the new research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that even though high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control and high blood fats are important indicators of disease, the excess weight itself remains critical.
Seriously overweight people who displayed none of these warning signs were nonetheless found to die younger than people at a normal weight.
Canadian scientists, from the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, conducted a review of eight studies published from 1950 onwards to find out whether these metabolic indicators were linked to premature death and heart disease in normal-weight, overweight and obese people.
Being fit is no help if you're fat as well: Scientists say healthy obesity does not exist
So which is it? Can a person be "fat but fit," or does obesity trump fitness? Those who are rightly skeptical of the reliability of reports in The Daily Mail (due to a history of that paper occasionally getting it wrong and having to print retractions) should be advised that media outlets which are generally regarded as usually more reliable also covered the same story, among them Time Magazine:
You Can’t Be Fit and Fat
-- Or are there other variables (such as genetics, for example, or sleep patterns, or diet, or alcohol use, or any of several other possible contributors) which should be factored into the equation? In short, has the question been formed as a False Dilemma?
What do you think?