There are always anomalies, but generally, the answer is no. The laundry list of ailments that accompany excess body fat grows every day: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and on and on.
Mind you, I'm not talking about a few extra pounds. You can be healthy as a horse without a six-pack or that little gap skinny women have between their thighs when they wear boy shorts. If you eat a nutritious, varied diet and exercise regularly, you may not be as thin as the bikini model who lives across the street, but you're fine. Healthy comes in all shapes and sizes—except maybe XXXL.
Before considering the science, consider the common sense. Being overweight or obese means you're lugging extra pounds around. If it's just a matter of five or six lbs. over your ideal weight, then it's not that big of a deal. It's kind of like spending all your time with a backpack filled with textbooks. But once you go beyond that, you're putting a lot of strain on your body. Imagine carrying around a 50-lb. dumbbell all day, every day. It's almost as though you're forcing your body into a perpetual state of overtraining. That extra weight puts pressure on your joints, which can lead to arthritis. It also puts extra pressure on your cardiovascular system, which can lead to heart complications.
Then, there's the question of diet. Overweight people tend to eat too many calories—and those calories are often heavy on the refined carbs and "bad" fats. Both of these substances can cause a buildup of plaque on arteries. Refined carbs can also cause insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes.
There are also the other illnesses that, according to the National Institute of Health, are statistically higher in heavier people, including colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder cancers, sleep apnea, and gallstones.
The "fit and fat" debate hit the spotlight last January when a meta-review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) came out claiming that overweight people lived longer than skinny people. Advocates of the overweight lifestyle, or "fatvocates," took to the streets singing the praises of the study.
Much of the media glossed over the fact that the JAMA study made a distinction between "obese" and "overweight." Overweight people with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29 were the ones who supposedly lived longer. "Grade 1" obese people with a BMI between 30 and 34 fared the same as normal-weight people. People with a BMI of 35 or more had the highest risk of death of anyone.
Unfortunately (for overweight people), the review turned out to be flawed and spent the rest of 2013 being roundly criticized. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reported on a number of flaws in their newsletter Nutrition Action. The study didn't account for smokers, who tend to be thinner. It didn't account for people with cancer, dementia, or emphysema; all who tend to lose weight. It also didn't account for age, and people tend to lose weight before they die of old age–related illnesses. So people can become thin—too thin—when they're sick or dying, but that doesn't mean being thin was the cause of death. Not accounting for this threw off the numbers.
Next, the Canadians jumped into the fray, releasing their own meta-review that accounted for people with metabolic syndrome—a group of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, dodgy cholesterol, and excess abdominal fat. These put you at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. They found that metabolically unhealthy people were at risk regardless of weight. However, when they looked at people without metabolic issues, they found that obese ones had a higher risk of death.
Healthy overweight and healthy normal-sized people had the same level of risk. However, overweight people had slightly higher metabolic markers (for instance, slightly higher blood pressure) and this indicated a greater chance of complications down the road.
And, of course, there are other studies such as the National Cancer Institute's research in The New England Journal of Medicine, which crunched its own numbers and discovered that, among nonsmokers, normal-weight people had a much better chance of living when compared to even mildly overweight people.
To sum all this up, if you're obese, you should really do something about it because multiple studies have confirmed that you're more susceptible to the shopping list of sicknesses listed above. But if you're just a little overweight, you may or may not be in trouble; it depends on who you want to believe.
But as much as I'm a crusader for wellness-inspired weight loss, one flaw with all these studies is that they're based on BMI, which is a faulty measurement. Given it's a simple height/weight ratio, most bodybuilders—not to mention athletes in other sports requiring serious muscle—would be considered obese.
Or take me. I'm 5' 11", 160 pounds. My BMI is 23, which puts me right in the middle of "normal." However, I also have about 9% body fat, which is considerably below "normal." According to the American Council on Exercise, 14–17% is a "fitness" level and 18–24% is "normal." If I'd added that amount of fat to my frame, my BMI would classify me as overweight, maybe even obese.
So you need to take all this science with a grain of salt.
If your BMI is 30+, your waistline is on or near to 35 inches (for women) or 40 inches (for men), and you don't know a barbell from a kettlebell, then you're probably obese and headed for trouble. Otherwise, use your common sense as a guide.
Does your blood work come back sparkling? Do you eat a diet that's primarily veggies and fruits, followed by whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats? Do you eat little or no added sugar, processed food, and fried food? Do you work out or get some serious exercise at least 4 times a week? Do you feel good in your body? If you can answer "yes" to these things, you're probably at a good weight—and if you're not, you'll get there soon enough.
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More than one-third of the adults in the United States are obese, according to the eggheads at Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, over the years, that number hasn't been getting better…it's been getting worse. And obesity can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and much more.
But, taking a daily walk can help you stay in shape—and if you are obese or overweight, it's a low-impact way to ease into exercise. If you combine your daily jaunt with sensible dietary substitutions, like consuming fewer simple carbs and replacing soda with water, the walk can be surprisingly beneficial for weight loss. On top of that, walking can also elevate mood and alleviate stress. But that's not all.
Here are 5 more reasons you should take a walk.
1. Walking Aids Digestion
According to research that appeared in The New York Times, a post-meal walk can aid digestion and control blood sugar levels. Alternatively, physically moving away from the dinner table eliminates the possibility of going back for seconds, thirds, or nineteenths.
2. Walking Is Good For Your Bones
You won't bulk up your quads, hammys, or glutes in the same manner you would by performing load-bearing exercises like barbell squats or deadlifts, but walking still builds strength.
"Walking strengthens the legs and core, and improves cardiovascular fitness," says Lisa Lynn, PT, FT, a specialist in performance nutrition. "In fact, walking strengthens the bones better than biking, swimming, or elliptical training."
Just a friendly tip: Avoid texting while walking. Researchers found that walking texters or readers were found to have shoddy balance. Stumbling into oncoming traffic while texting increases your odds of having all 206 bones in your body smashed into bits. Plus, you might also dent the person's car.
3. Walking Is Low Impact
Sometimes our bodies need a break from demanding exercises like burpees, rock star hops, and jump squats. But taking a time out from high-impact movements doesn't give you permission to become a loafer.
When your goal is to lose weight aim to walk for 20 minutes per day, suggests Lynn. If your diet isn't as clean as it should be (put those Funyuns down right this second!), boost your walking time up to an hour per day. "We're supposed to be getting 10,000 steps daily," Lynn recommends, "so how long you walk really depends on how active you are and how much you sit."
And on the topic of sitting, use some of those steps to stand up and walk around a little at least once an hour. Prolonged time on your posterior isn't healthy.
4. Walking Can Improve Your Mood
Sitting all day under florescent lights, dealing with annoying emails and TPS reports as you watch your lunch hour blow past can be both infuriating and stressful. So, go for a walk. Assuming you're not walking through a methane garden, the new stimuli and fresh air you encounter during a walk can help calm you down and prevent you from Hulking up on your coworkers.
"A walk is a great way to clear your head and serve as a form of meditation for today's anxious society," Lynn explains. "It's a fast way to boost mood…and a great way to detox both mentally and physically."
5. Walking Cures Laziness
There's no excuse not to take a walk. "When you don't feel up to the hardcore, overzealous exercise, walking is a huge victory," adds Lynn. "Walking keeps our bodies pliable and our joints and muscles loose and in working order. I tell my clients that if you rest you'll rust, but you won't if you walk!"
Whether or not you're a Pilates or yoga lover or you're new to working out in this way, you're going to love Chalene Johnson's newest fitness program: PiYo. Using yoga and Pilates-inspired moves, Chalene has created a program that will not just help you lose weight, but will also help improve your flexibility and resistance to injury. And…while doing it, you'll also get to sculpt and tone your buns. In fact, PiYo Buns is devoted to your quadriceps, hamstrings, and booty!
Strong butt muscles, or glutes, are important for a bunch of reasons. They're part of a group of muscles commonly referred to as your core. Like your abs, they support and protect the rest of your body, particularly your back. Having a strong butt can go a long way toward elevating back pain.
They're also lumped in with a group of muscles called your posterior chain, a fancy term for the muscles on your backside, including the spinal erectors, hamstrings, and glutes. People tend to focus on front muscles like pecs, abs, and quads, which create an imbalance that can lead to injury and general discomfort. Keeping your glutes and the rest of the chain strong can help with all kinds of issues—including back pain (again) and, believe it or not, your knees. It can also improve performance.
But, more important than any of these things, a strong butt is crucial if you want to properly rock a pair of jeans! PiYo can help you get there. But, since it's exclusive to Team Beachbody® for now, pick up a copy through your Coach. And, while you're waiting for it to arrive, do these 5 moves in order and repeat sequence 3 times for a tighter, sexier butt.
Stand with your feet parallel and 4"–5" apart. Keep your chest lifted, abs engaged, and your weight in your heels. Bend both knees, lowering your glutes as low as you can and then extend your knees, standing ¾ of the way up. Bend knees again deeply and repeat. If you feel like you're going to fall backwards, you're doing it correctly.
Workout: Do 10 Narrow Squats. Go down and pulse for three and stand ¾ of the way up.
Note: If you have knee issues, don't go as deep.
For this wider squat, stand with your feet wider than your shoulders, and externally rotate your feet. Bend both knees, keeping your tailbone and abs tucked in, making sure to not let your knees go out over your toes. Drive both heels into the ground, engaging your inner thighs, and squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to come ¾ of the way back to standing.
Workout: Do 10 Sumo Squats. Go down and pulse for three and stand ¾ of the way up.
Begin with feet in a hip-width, parallel position. Step back with your left leg, keeping both feet and hips facing front. Bend both knees deeply with your hands in front of you, letting back leg hover just off of the ground. Keep the chest up and abs pulled in. Pulse three times and return to standing. Repeat.
Workout: Do 10 Pulsing Lunges. Repeat with the right leg.
Note: If this bothers your knee, still take a wide step, but don't lunge so deeply.
This move is similar to one you'd make on the lanes. Begin with feet in a hip-width, parallel position. Keeping your weight on your right foot, step your left foot behind your right, crossing it behind your right leg. Bend both knees, keeping chest lifted and abs pulled in, until front thigh is parallel to the floor. Pulse three times, then return to the starting position and tap your foot on the ground.
Workout: Do 10 Bowlers. Repeat with the right leg.
Place a folded up towel or yoga mat on the ground to protect your knees. Come on to all fours, hands directly under the shoulders, and knees under the hips. Engage your abs, keep your hips level, and extend your left leg behind you, straight and parallel to the floor. Next, bring the leg to the side, perpendicular to your body, again straight and parallel to the floor. Return the leg behind you and repeat. Make sure to keep your core tight the whole time—only your leg should move.
Workout: Do 10 Leg Lifts. Repeat with the right leg.
(Makes 8 servings, about 1-1/2 cups each)
Note: Want to make an individual serving? Place ⅓ of the yogurt in a tall glass. Top with ⅓ of the strawberries and ⅓ of the blueberries. Repeat layers twice. Drizzle with ½ tsp. of honey.
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†Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.
Please consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
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