Exercise isn't just about losing weight, cardiologists say.  It's about a healthy heart

Exercise isn’t just about losing weight, cardiologists say. It’s about a healthy heart

There’s a lot more to exercise than just losing weight, but in a world where obesity is so strongly linked to poor health, it’s hard not to make weight loss a primary goal.

A new editorial from three American cardiologists explains why this is such a big mistake.

Even if no visceral fat is burned, emerging evidence suggests that physical activity can still improve the health and fitness of our hearts, thereby extending our lives.

When it comes to improving health, cardiologists – Carl Lavie, Robert Ross and Ian Neeland – say simply increasing the amount of physical activity is more important than focusing on weight loss.

The argument is contentious and will no doubt spark further debate, but the authors clearly state their supporting evidence.

In particular, cardiologists focus on a study published in International Journal of Obesity in August that found exercise rates are a much better predictor of long-term health than a person’s body mass index or body fat content.

In 116,228 adults, this study found that increasing physical activity essentially eliminated most of the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular-related death over the next 12 years.

This was true even if an individual’s waist circumference increased during the same period.

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

“However, substantial evidence suggests that a monolithic focus on weight loss as the sole determinant of the success of strategies aimed at reducing obesity is unwarranted and, more importantly, eliminates opportunities to focus on other potentially important lifestyles that are associated with substantial health.” benefits.”

In other words, clinicians may be failing patients by placing too much emphasis on weight loss and not enough on reducing sedentary behavior.

While the authors of the editorial acknowledge the “substantial and unequivocal evidence” that obesity is a health risk factor, they also note the “obesity paradox,” where obesity is sometimes associated with a lower risk of mortality.

In recent years, scientists from various fields have criticized modern medicine’s narrow-minded view of obesity.

Last year, a 2021 review by two exercise physiologists argued for a “weight-neutral strategy” to treat obesity.

Even if weight loss is not achieved, a 2021 review found that exercise can improve most cardiometabolic risk markers associated with obesity. Weight loss, meanwhile, has not been consistently associated with a lower risk of mortality.

In fact, one recent study of 10,000 heart disease patients found that those with better cardiorespiratory fitness were more likely to survive the next 15 years, regardless of their BMI, body fat or waist circumference.

“The finding that obesity and related health risks can be significantly reduced by adopting a physically active lifestyle and healthy diet, even with minimal weight loss, is encouraging and provides additional options for the clinician and the overweight/obese adult. successful treatment,” argues the new editorial.

The authors of the editorial office also investigated the matter. For example, they cite a 2018 analysis by Lavie that found that changes in physical activity were a better predictor of both all-cause mortality and mortality specifically from cardiovascular disease. Losing weight, meanwhile, showed no such risk reduction.

Evidence is accumulating to suggest that the relationship between physical activity, heart health and fat loss is not as straightforward as many of us believe.

If a person is active enough, some experts think they should be considered healthy regardless of their weight.

Given how inconsistent weight loss and gain can be, these recent findings put more power in the hands of individuals.

If you want to feel fit and healthy, you may need to move.

The editorial was published in International Journal of Obesity.

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