By WO Team

Exercise benefits can outweigh health effects of obesity

Exercise benefits can outweigh health effects of obesity


Can you be fit and healthy even if you are overweight?

Researchers show that a person’s fitness cannot be measured by weight alone. They suggest that exercise can benefit even severely obese individuals, giving them a physically fit health profile similar to those who weigh significantly less than them.

The study

Data was gathered from 853 patients attending weight management clinics in Southern Ontario, Canada. Individuals completed clinical examinations, which included fasting blood measures and maximal treadmill stress test.

In this study, 41% of participants with mild obesity were found to have high fitness levels, while 25% and 11% of the participants with moderate and severe obesity, respectively, had high fitness levels.

Individuals with severe obesity were more likely to have high blood pressure, glucose, and triglycerides if they were in the lowest 20% of fitness levels, but were not more likely to have these issues if they were in the 80% higher fitness levels group.

Previous studies have shown that much less physical activity is required to improve health than is needed to lose weight. However, this study is one of the first studies suggesting that physical activity may be more important than weight loss for people with severe obesity.

Results, published in the BioMed Central journal of Obesity, show that exercise is equally if not more important than weight for severely obese individuals with a Body Mass Index, BMI, of greater than 40.


Obesity is only associated with worse health in individuals who were unfit, researchers suggested.

Exercising 150 minutes a week according to physical activity guidelines generally only translates into less than half a pound of weight loss. But this amount of exercise produced dramatic improvement in health, so weight loss should be disconnected with the importance of exercise. Severely obese individuals can become fit and healthy from exercising without losing weight, researchers explained.

People look for different results, some want to improve their health and others aim for aesthetic goals. When it comes to health, this study reinforces the notion that people do not need to lose weight to be healthy, researchers concluded.


Do K, et al (2018) Association between cardiorespiratory fitness and metabolic risk factors in a population with mild to severe obesity, BMC Obesity (2018) 5:5, published online February 12, 2018. doi: 10.1186/s40608-018-0183-7


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