Scientists from the European University in Madrid conducted the first nationwide study that examined the relationship between regular exercise and health in overweight people. Experts analyzed data on the health status of more than 527.6 thousand adults (average age – 42 years).
Study participants were assigned to groups based on body mass index – normal weight, overweight and obesity – as well as according to their physical activity. Scientists determined the state of the cardiovascular system by three main risk factors for heart disease and strokes: a history of diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and high levels of “bad” cholesterol.
Approximately 42% of the people in this cohort were of normal body weight, 41% were overweight, and another 18% were obese. Most of the participants (65.3%) had very low activity, that is, they did not fulfill the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization – 150-300 minutes of aerobic activity per week. Another 12.3% of participants maintain insufficient physical activity, and 24.2% regularly engage in physical education and sports. About 30% had high cholesterol, 15% suffered from high blood pressure, and 3% were diagnosed with diabetes.
Having studied the relationship between all these factors, scientists have determined that any physical activity, even minimal, reduces the likelihood of developing diabetes and increasing “bad” cholesterol. But the bad news is that overweight and obese people have a higher risk of heart disease compared to their normal weight peers. In addition, obese people who exercise regularly have three times the risk of developing diabetes compared to the laziest but leanest people.
According to the authors of the study, these findings disprove the myth that it is possible to be overweight and be healthy at the same time if you pay attention to physical activity. Exercise minimally compensates for the negative health effects of excess weight, and does not eliminate heart problems. Therefore, health authorities should pay more attention to promoting healthy weight, scientists say.