Being Fat and Fit

I found this on an “expert q&a” on exercise on the New York Times site with Steven Blair, an exercise researcher and former president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Can someone be fat and fit? Yes.  We began in 1995 to look at fitness and fatness as predictors of mortality, separately and together. What we found then, and continue to find in ongoing studies, is that people who are fat — whether measured by body mass index, or a more direct measure of body composition such as skin fold or underwater weighing – and are also fit do not have a substantially elevated risk of mortality. In fact, they have a much lower mortality risk compared with lower- or normal-weight individuals who are sedentary.


I think those of us involved in public health have to stop carrying on at such great length about how bad obesity is; that strategy simply is not working. We need to focus instead on behaviors that lead to good health: eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; keeping fat and alcohol intake to a minimum; and accumulating 30 minutes of walking on at least five days per week.

If everyone did that, they’d be healthier. If the 40 to 50 million adults who do essentially no physical activity would just get up and move around — not worrying about their speed but moving along at a comfortable pace — they would feel better and start getting health benefits. But make no mistake: we’d still have short fat bald guys like me. I’m never going to be a movie star or play basketball. But I’m controlling what is under my control – namely, my habits. So I do follow my own advice.

Note: Fat Acceptance does not require that fat people meet some “healthy” standard. Fat people can be healthy OR unhealthy, just as thin people can be healthy or unhealthy.



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4 responses to “Being Fat and Fit”

  1. Patsy Nevins Avatar
    Patsy Nevins

    Also, our ‘habits’ are not a moral issue, nor do they, as everyone around seems to want us to believe, control our health. The only personal ‘habit’ over which we have control which actually impacts health is smoking. I am active, always have been, & believe that moderate activity most likely has health benefits, but I have known & known of many ‘superfit’ people who dropped dead at very early ages, & I have also known many people, including many fat people (MANY of whom are or were related to me) whose idea of ‘exercise’ was walking from the house to the car who had pretty good overall health & lived well into their 80’s or 90’s & in some cases past 100. And, for me, the basic belief by which I live is that our bodies belong to us & how we live in them, feed them, move them, etc., is no one’s business but our own, when & how we die mostly affects ourselves & those who love us, & nobody is immortal or gets a free pass. And, also, Dr. Blair, it has been amply demonstrated in several large, longterm, well-controlled studies, that eating lowfat does not improve health or longevity either.

    Can we be fit? Absolutely. Do we have some duty to our culture to be fit? No. And fitness is also more attainable for most of us at some times in our lives than at others, & those of us who are older or disabled in some way do not deserve to be stigmatized more than anyone else, nor, for that matter, do those who just do not like to exercise.

    That said, we are being deluged with rain this weekend, but I still fully expect to leave the house within an hour or so to get my walk in. That’s how conditioned I am. :-)

  2. living400lbs Avatar

    Do we have some duty to our culture to be fit? No.

    Oh yay. I wish I’d written that! Yeah, I want to be fit, but that’s for my own selfish reasons, not to be a better person or because I “owe it to society”.

  3. West Los Angeles Chiropractor Avatar

    I have read a few of your posts and they are all interesting and informative…keep up the good work.

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