Fitness and Fatness and Longevity

There is a great deal of denial floating around when it comes to the excess weight carried by a majority of the people fortunate enough to live in wealthier parts of the world - even more denial than there is for lack of exercise, and there's plenty of that. Wealth is ever a double-edge sword, and brings the opportunity to become overweight and sedentary along with its many benefits - we mammals have evolved to find it hard to turn down large amounts of food that is both cheap and good, and we've succeeded ourselves into a challenging position on that front. Unfortunately indulgence has meaningful costs: a deterioration in health and life expectancy, and the more we overeat the worse that cost becomes. This has always been the folk wisdom of past decades and centuries, but in recent years the life science and medical research communities have brought more rigorous measurement and greater understanding to the costs of excess fat tissue and lack of exercise. Denial is becoming harder - which is a good thing, as the cost of food will continue to head towards zero as technology advances.

Here's an article written by someone who would love to remain upon the boat of denial by the sound of some of the later paragraphs, but it's hard to argue against facts established through good science:

When it comes to lowering our overall risk of death and dying from heart disease, fitness may be just as important, if not more so, than weight. That's what researchers concluded after studying fitness, weight and mortality among 14,345 middle-aged men in an 11-year study. Most studies that have previously linked weight gain, overweight and obesity to higher mortality risk have focused only on BMI, or body mass index, a ratio of height and weight. That's because weight can indirectly affect a number of different metabolic processes that contribute to mortality, such as how we burn calories or process sugars, and how high our blood pressure is. But weight may also be masking the effect of another factor that could protect or propel us to an early death: how efficiently our hearts and lungs are working, or, in other words, how fit we are.

Regular readers here will already know that both exercise and level of body fat go a fair way towards determining the future trajectory of health and life expectancy. Certainly there is no medicine or therapy that a healthy person can obtain at this time that comes even close to the benefits gained by (a) regular exercise, and (b) maintaining an optimal level of body fat. A handful of posts from the archives, for example:


As much as this article want you to feel guilty for overeating and unhealthy food, the fact remains the same: 'Healthy food is expensive'
And for those who struggle with no or below minimum wages, unemployment, debt, mortages, taxes, etc. paying extra for anything that is not immediately beneficial will always sound like a bad option.
Healthy food will have to drop at least 70% in price before I stop seeing seeing it as a heavy burden on my wallet.

Posted by: Roger at December 8th, 2011 4:00 AM
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