Clean Diet

Is It Possible to Be Overweight and Still Be Fit?

Being thin but physically unfit is worse than being a little heavy and fit.

Join our dietitians, Erin Macdonald and Tiffani Bachus for their new course, A Whole-Life Guide to Lasting Weight LossRegister now! 

Obesity and its related diseases – heart disease, diabetes, stroke and certain cancers – claim many lives per year. Yet some studies suggest that carrying a few extra pounds can actually help people live longer. For instance, researchers from The Cooper Institute in Dallas found that being thin but physically unfit is worse than being a little heavy and fit.

See also 5 Secrets to Win at Weight Loss

Their study found that regular exercise can lead to a reduced risk of cancer and better overall health, no matter what your body type. A meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine grouped people based on weight and found that regardless of body mass index (BMI), being metabolically healthy (having optimal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels) decreased risk of dying early or having heart problems.

See also Your Weekend Binge Might Be Hurting Your Health

However, other studies have found that being significantly overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) or obese (BMI of 30 or greater), regardless of fitness level or metabolic health, is problematic for overall health. As a result of conflicting findings, research is ongoing. For ideal health, we recommend you achieve and maintain a BMI of less than 25. The bottom line is, you can stay fit and stave off disease by exercising regularly and maintaining your metabolic health by eating clean. It is important to have a consistent exercise program that meets the recommendation of at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week and 2 or more days a week of strength training.