The popular belief that supports the 'fit but fat' theory, has recently got a setback. New research challenges the notion that you can be fat and medically fit at the same time, finding that being active can lower but not eliminate medical risks like heart attacks and other complications, faced by heavy women.
Previous research has gone back and forth on whether exercise or weight has a greater influence on heart disease risks.
The new study involving nearly 39,000 women helps sort out the combined effects of physical activity and body mass on women's chances of developing heart disease.
The study by Harvard-affiliated researchers appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Participants were women aged 54 on average who filled out a questionnaire at the study's start, detailing their height, weight and amount of weekly physical activity in the past year, including walking, jogging, bicycling and swimming. They were then tracked for about 11 years. Overall 948 women developed heart disease.
In the study, women were considered active if they followed recommended guidelines and got at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week, including brisk walking or jogging. Women who got less exercise than that were considered inactive.
Weight was evaluated by body mass index: A BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight, while obese is 30 and higher.
It was found that compared with normal-weight active women, the risk for developing heart disease was 54 percent higher in overweight active women and 87 percent higher in obese active women. By contrast, it was 88 percent higher in overweight inactive women; and 2.5 times greater in obese inactive women.
Women over 50, who eventually develop heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems, excess weight can raise those odds in many ways, by increasing blood pressure and risks for diabetes, and by worsening cholesterol. But exercise counteracts all three to some extent – it was observed.
"It is reassuring to see that physical activity really does make an impact," said lead author
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