Tag Archives: physical activity

Another study indicates fitness more important than fatness for longevity

Functional fitness kitty adds activities for daily living (ADLs).

Recently on one of the lists I was introduced to another study which suggests that one of the most important things we can do to have a longer life is to exercise–at least a little bit.  The study report begins by pointing out that in the past there has been an assumption that exercise helps people live longer indirectly because it helps them lose weight or change their body size.  However the paper goes on to state that recent evidence suggests that physical activity (including recreational activity and activity accumulated during work hours) seems to help people live longer regardless of whether or not there is a change in BMI or body size:

Whereas it could be hypothesized that PA exerts its influence on mortality indirectly through reducing adiposity, recent data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) suggest that PA is unrelated to change in body weight and inversely, albeit weakly, associated with change in WC (12). Thus, PA may interact differentially with BMI and WCin relation to all-cause mortality.

So the study went on to test this question.  Is it the change in body size or the activity itself that affects longevity?  And the answer seemed to be pretty clear that physical activity helps people live longer whether or not their was weight loss or a change in body size.  And furthermore, the test indicates that the biggest differences in longevity seem to be between the completely sedentary and the moderately inactive groups.  In other words, they hypothesized that the place where there is the greatest impact in longevity is moving people from the group that doesn’t do any exercise at all to the group that does a little bit of exercise.  More exercise helps a bit more.  But moving out of the completely sedentary group seems to have the most impact.

The greatest reductions in mortality risk were observed between the 2 lowest activity groups across levels of general and abdominal adiposity, which suggests that efforts to encourage even small increases in activity in inactive individuals may be beneficial topublic health.
Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.100065.

So what does this mean to us?  First of all, let me plainly state that nobody is  under any obligation to prioritize their health or engage in any activity if they don’t want to.  Your body is your own and you get to decide how you want to live.  But if you are somebody who is interested in living longer, perhaps one of the best things you can do (outside of being rich and born to parents with great genes) is to do at least a little bit of exercise.

So what does this mean to public health?  To me it suggests that if we really want people to live longer, we need to focus on helping them get more active.  Outside of the fact that most weight loss attempts fail, and about 1/3 of the time lead to people getting larger, outside of the fact that many of the more radical weight loss schemes (like surgery) can lead to life-altering side effects, is the simple fact that getting people to exercise even a little bit seems to have a more dramatic effect.  And getting people to exercise–provided they can do it in a safe environment–seems to be a lot less risky.

For so many reasons, I think it’s time to move outside of the weight loss rhetoric about the war on obesity and just move into an environment focused on making it physically, emotionally and financially safe, comfortable and accessible for all folks to integrate physical activity into their lives.  That is, if we are ready to stop worrying about making money upon broken dreams and start helping people actually have better lives.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. I’m setting my spring speaking schedule.  Want to book me to speak to your group or school?  Send an email to jeanette@thefatchick.com.  I can work to fit most programs and budgets.  You can read more HERE.

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Why we need to “broaden” the Definition of Exercise

If you haven’t seen it already, I am sorry to be the one to bring this to your attention.  The news agencies have begun to pick up on a “study” that shows that fat women exercise, on average, for one hour per year.  Now naturally, I found this highly suspicious.  Nearly every fat person I know exercises more than that.  It seemed extremely unlikely to me, so I held my nose and started reading the articles and checking into the study.

Now the articles that are reporting about this study sport headlines like: “Obese Women Get One Hour Vigorous Activity Per Year”. (Warning, link leads to article with obligatory “headless fatty” picture.) But let’s look at a few things here.  First of all–the study asked the participants to wear accelerometers for 10 hours per day for 4 days.  Based on the findings from the accelerometers they extrapolated how much “vigorous activity” each participant got over the course of a year.  There were not a lot of participants in the study, and the participants were not all fat.  In fact, nobody in the study got very much exercise based on how they defined exercise.  Even those in the thin categories only got about 10 hours of exercise per year–far, FAR below what is recommended for good health.

So what is going on here?  Well the main thing that’s happening, is the the study makes the definition of “vigorous activity” extremely narrow and then reports how few people fit their definition of activity.  The study uses accelerometers which are known to only measure a very specific type of physical activity.  Typically accelerometers are good at recording lower body movements of a certain type (walking, running, climbing stairs) and not really good at recording many activities of daily livings (ADLs).  Further more, it appears that the study uses a short period of time to calculate the activity.  (4 days is considered the minimum by some standards and below the necessary threshold of measured time by others.)

The main issue here is that while the study’s definition of vigorous activity is really narrow, may of the headlines don’t reflect this.  I’ve yet to see a single headline that says “Fat people spend nine hours less per year running and jumping rope than thin people.”  But in essence, that’s what we’re talking about here.  It just gives the fat people a lot more ammo to throw at people of size.

It also gives people of size more reason to believe that they are both inactive and unhealthy.  And believing you are inactive and unhealthy can help make you inactive and unhealthy.  A recent study involved two groups of  hotel workers who had moderately active jobs.  In the study, one group of workers were told that their daily work “counted” as exercise and the other group were told that their daily work “didn’t count” as exercise.  Then they took a host of health metrics down the road.

According to the study:

Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention,the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.

In other words, if you believed the activity you are doing “counts” as exercise and will help make you healthy, it is more likely to do just that.

In this light, it is difficult to understand what good will come from narrowing people’s definition of what constitutes healthy activities.  In my certification process, I was taught that there are three main categories of exercise–cardiovascular training (aerobic exercise), resistance training (strength training) and flexibility training (stretching).  I was taught that all three of these are very important to health.  But the “fat ladies get one hour of exercise study” only counts a small percentage of one of these categories as exercise.  It doesn’t count resistance training or flexibility at all.  It doesn’t count cardiovascular activity based in water or that primarily uses the upper body.  It doesn’t count many forms of walking, cycling or jumping as vigorous activity despite failing to take body weight or heart rate into account.

In fact, of the 60 activities listed in the Fit Fatties Virtual Decathlon, less than ten of them would be likely to be accurately measured by an accelerometer.  And it would be difficult to determine how many of those would be considered “vigorous” enough to count in this study.

But our bodies are smarter than this study.  And our bodies love joyful, physical movements of all different types.  We know that shame doesn’t work, and we know that believing you are engaged in healthy behavior makes it more likely that you will receive benefits from that healthy behavior.  With that in mind, it seems like we should be actively working to expand the definition of what “counts” as exercise and providing as many examples of people of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities, who are smiling and doing this stuff as is possible.

With that in mind we are going to be inviting you to tweet some of your absolutely gorgeous pictures of healthy, happy, and fabulous activities in an upcoming project.  Stay tuned for the details.  In the meantime, keep having fun and keep moving your glorious bodies in lots of different and happy ways.  It all counts.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to make sure you are the first to know about fabulous fit fatty projects and get some free stuff?  Don’t forget to join my group!

 

 

 

Even more research on Fitness and Fatness

For the 1,000th time, fitness is more important than fatness when it comes to overall health outcomes.  In the midst of the holiday hubub, I came across yet another study regarding weight vs. exercise as a determinant of health.  This was actually a metastudy, which means the scientists gathered together a lot of other studies and used math and science to determine what most of those other studies said.  And it’s no surprise, at least to me, that fitness is much more important than body size in determining how long and how well people live.

This metastudy analyzed the results of 10 other studies.  And these studies in turn measured the results of tens of thousands of participants (the largest single study included 21,856 participant) and perhaps more importantly measured these people over a significant span of time (ranging from 7 to over 16 years).  It’s important to note that the studies analyzed included both enough participants to be statistically significant and were conducted over a long enough period to see what was actually happening in the lives of the participants.  Many of the studies cited regarding the effectiveness and efficacy of weight loss are conducted over a period of three years or less.  Given the fact that long term studies indicate that weight loss participants tend to regain all the weight that was lost and often a little more in the 3-5 year range, it’s clear that the duration of the study is an important factor in determining actual results.

And what were the actual results in this case?  I think they were pretty astounding.  The metastudy indicated that unfit people, no matter what they weighed, had twice the risk of dying during the study than fit people.  And the study showed that if you are fit and fat, your mortality risk is about the same as if you are fit and thin.  That means that all those thin and unfit folks had about a 50 percent greater chance of mortality than the fat and fit folks during the course of the study.

Whoa.

So here we are heading into the holidays.  This is a time when we have access to fabulous food and friends and fantastic food and family and well, FOOD.  This is a time when many of us feel more and more panic regarding weight and body size, culminating in a full blown panic that hits full force right around January 1st.  We live in a society where the commercials are full of food porn shots of holiday turkeys lovingly basted in butter and mountains of chocolate until December 25.  Only to be replaced on December 26 with shots of impossibly tanned and ripped bodies exhorting us to make 2014 the year where we too get to look like a movie star.

Bah Humbug!

The bad news is, no matter how many mashed potatoes we eat or avoid, and no matter how many crunches and squats we do, we are probably NOT going to look like the perky fitness models gracing those commercials on January 1.  The good news is, we don’t have to.  You don’t have to look like that to be a successful exerciser, and you don’t have to look like that to achieve massive health benefits from engaging in regular exercise.  And that regular exercise doesn’t have to include 2 hours per day at the gym or running marathons.  We’re talking about a cumulative total of 150 minutes per week here.  Eventually.  If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry.  You can get there!  Just start wherever you currently are with your fitness level and increase gradually, up to 10 percent per week until you get there.  Some studies show that even as little as 75 minutes per week of exercise can have a significant effect on health.

So, so what?

Why am I being such a Negative Nelly and bursting your exercise bubble?  Why am I not suggesting that you’ll look like that hateful woman with the three kids and the super flat abs and very tiny shorts who is all over the internet and your television asking you what is  your excuse?  (Because, of course, she says, if you do some exercise surely you’ll look a lot like she does!)  I’m telling you this because exercise is not only a wonderful way to improve health outcomes, but is also a wonderful tool to help you feel better, feel better about yourself, enjoy a better quality of life and have a darn good time.  And far too often, I’ve seen people approach exercise thinking it will make them look like a supermodel, only to give up a short time later when they find that they are not accosted by modeling agencies or Hollywood directors eager to make them millionaires or at least take them out to very expensive restaurants to tell them how pretty they are.

God, I’m GORGEOUS!

Exercise is wonderful.  I’ve seen exercise work magic in the lives of many, many people.  But it rarely works the sort of magic seen in “before and after” photo shoots.  The sad thing is, by looking exclusively for the “magic of exercise” as seen on TV, many people miss the magic that is right in front of them.

Here’s wishing you a calm, lovely, peaceful holiday.  And a 2014 that is full of all the magic that a moderately active lifestyle can bring to you!

Love,

Jeanette

AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. There is a lot of great advice about how to go from zero to moderately active in YOUR life in my book–The Fat Chick Works Out!  Now get both the book and DVD for only $25.

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