Which Matters More: Weight or Exercise?

Which Matters More: Weight or Exercise?


The Internet is replete with articles about the dangers of obesity, calling it the latest health epidemic. We are constantly told that obesity leads to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, even cancer. But is obesity really the biggest health risk? A new study says exercise is even more critical to health.

Research from the University of Cambridge determined that twice as many Europeans die as a result of inactivity as do from being overweight. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigated the health habits of 334,161 participants over a period of twelve years. It found that 676,000 lives in Europe could have been saved through exercise, while only 337,000 lives could have been saved by eliminating obesity.

While it is true that obesity and inactivity often co-exist, there are many sedentary people whose weight is within acceptable limits for their size. Their body mass index is normal, and to the world, as well as to their doctors, they may appear to be in excellent health. Their physical inactivity, however, is quietly wreaking havoc.

Researchers say that as little as twenty minutes of brisk walking every day can significantly lower the risk of early death, regardless of the weight of an individual. Here are some of the known benefits of regular physical activity:

1) It reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.
2) It lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
3) It reduces your risk of some cancers.
4) It strengthens your bones and muscles, lowering your risk of injury.
5) It improves your mood and mental acuity.
6) It increases your changes of living longer.

And of course, it does contribute to controlling your weight.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity is generally safe. Just start slowly and gradually increase your level of activity. Build in some weight resistance training, as well. If you have a chronic health condition, consult your doctor to create a plan that accommodates your particular needs.