Fitness, Fatness, Weight Loss & Common Assumptions
Here's something that often slides under our radar, a prevalent assumption that kind of rumbles under the surface as we work to be healthy & fit: Our culture predominantly asserts that fitness cannot coincide with fatness and vice versa. In other words, we generally believe that being fit means having the “perfect” BMI. (Body mass index, a measure used by doctors and researchers to categorize weight and disease risk, is a ratio of a person’s weight to their height.) We can't avoid this idea—maybe aren't even consciously aware of its ubiquity—but it does emanate from all angles of social media, advertising, and even sources (ahem, people) closer to home. If we're not meticulously aware, we can end up applying it to ourselves and others without question. Maybe we see someone working out—someone who perhaps carries extra bodyweight—and subconsciously assume they can’t possibly be fit. Or perhaps, despite our own daily kickbutt workouts, we don’t define ourselves as fit because we believe we’re “too heavy.”
But fitness and bodyweight are actually two independent variables. A person can be overweight or obese and physically fit, just as a thinner person can be unfit. The confusion probably lies in the fact that we’ve been led to believe that exercise equals weight loss and that weight loss means you’re fit. While exercise can help control our weight, people often vastly underestimate the amount needed to trigger loss. Recent research shows that it takes about 300 minutes of cardio exercise done on most days of the week to trigger weight loss. That's like having part-time job (albeit one that many of us do enjoy)! Physical fitness, though, can be achieved with about 30 minutes a day of cardio plus a couple of strength training sessions a week, and it does not necessarily require weight loss.
An overweight person who works out regularly gives themselves an astounding gift—a reduction in the health risks connected with high BMI. While not an insurance policy against diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, and the like, exercise does significantly lower risks. So, whether or not a person loses weight, they’re achieving something very remarkable by maintaining a habit that takes great effort, dedication, and grit, and reaping benefits that no single pill has been designed to provide. In addition, regular exercise has been proven to boost mood and confidence, a perk that can help greatly if struggles with weight are negatively impacting a person’s sense of wellbeing.
Soooo, should we stop concerning ourselves with bodyweight? No, none of this is meant to say that we should discount a higher than normal BMI. We should strive to lose excess weight for many reasons. In addition to lowering disease risk, dropping even 5-10 percent of our bodyweight can significantly relieve joint pressure, increase self esteem, and improve quality of life. Just remember—We don’t have to lose weight before we can become fit. They’re parallel goals, both worth chasing.