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We’ve Been Looking At Health And Fitness The Wrong Way

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

You’re not alone in thinking that hitting the gym to shed weight is a way to lead a healthier life. This belief has been perpetuated by fitness experts and medical practitioners for a long time and weight loss through exercise has been widely regarded as a sign of someone being healthy or making better life choices.

According to a new editorial by cardiologists Carl Lavie, Robert Ross, and Ian Neeland, this is a grave mistake. The cardiologists insist that even if no visceral fat is burned through exercise, emerging evidence suggests that physical activity can still improve the health and fitness of our hearts.

In the paper, they argue that simply increasing the amount of physical activity in your day is more important than focusing on weight loss. They support their claim by the findings of different studies over the years that have attempted to prove that we place too much emphasis on weight loss and not enough on decreasing sedentary behaviour.

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“This is a finding that is entirely consistent with numerous observations demonstrating that exercise is associated with benefits across a wide range of health outcomes in association with no or minimal weight loss,” reads the paper..

The cardiologists bring up a recent study published in the International Journal Of Obesity which found that measures of exercise and physical activities are much better predictors of long-term health than a person’s body mass index (BMI) or body fat content.

In this study, researchers analysed 116,228 adults and found that increasing physical activity essentially eliminated most of the risk for all-cause mortality and complications due to heart health over the next 12 years. The findings remained consistent even if the waistline of the individual increased during the same period.

The trio of heart health experts acknowledge that obesity is a huge health risk and must be taken into account for long-term health concerns, but they also point out evidence that proves that modern medicine has a narrow-minded view of obesity.

“Considerable evidence suggests that a monolithic focus on weight loss as the only determinant of success for strategies that aim to reduce obesity is not justified and, more importantly, eliminates opportunities to focus on other potentially important lifestyle behaviours that are associated with substantial health benefits,” they write.

In a 2021 study, physiologists discovered that even if weight loss is not achieved, regular exercise can improve most health related risk markers, especially heart health, associated with obesity.

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“The finding that obesity and related health risks can be considerably reduced by the adoption of a physically active lifestyle and a healthy diet, even in the presence of minimal weight loss, is encouraging and provides the practitioner and the adult with overweight/obesity additional options for successful treatment,” reads the paper.

The cardiologists also quoted other studies that support their claim about shifting the focus of exercise and fitness from just weight loss to improving heart health. According to them, all these studies have proven that the relationship between physical activity, heart health, and weight loss is not as straightforward as we’ve been led to believe.

This is also why knowing, and understanding, this is especially important as it can help you realise that each individual can have different parameters for health and they can’t be treated the same way.