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They key is in how much you exercise, regardless of your weight.
More and more research supports what you already know: Exercise is the most powerful healthy living tool you have in your fight against old age and disease. The latest findings, from a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, show that not exercising is basically as bad as being obese.
Researchers from the Netherlands spent 15 years studying the height, weight, exercise habits, BMI, and rate of heart disease and stroke of 5,344 middle-aged people in Rotterdam (the participants were divided into three weight categories: normal weight, overweight, or obese) and found that being overweight or obese was linked to a higher rate of heart disease and stroke. Not that surprising. What was surprising to the researchers was that the overweight or obese participants who exercised regularly had similar rates of heart disease as the normal weight participants.
In other words, it’s not necessarily about how much you weigh; rather, it’s about how much you exercise. One caveat: The researchers were quick to add that even the low-level exercisers reported getting at least two hours of moderate exercise per day. For most, that’s a lot of exercise, but many of the participants reported walking or biking to work or during errands. So it is tough to generalise these findings to populations outside Rotterdam.
It also doesn’t mean obesity suddenly isn’t a risk factor for heart disease, but the study does suggest that a) the benefits of exercise might outweigh some of the dangers of obesity, and b) that it’s never too late to start working out and reap the benefits.