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.