Studies have shown that being physically fit, especially aerobically fit, protects against some of the detrimental effects of being overweight or obese. A recent study published in the April issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, investigated the relationship between fitness and lipid profile.
The subjects were healthy male reservists, aged 18 to 48 years, in the Finnish military. Their height and weight were accurately measured, Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated, and classified as normal weight, overweight, or obese according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Aerobic and muscular fitness were assessed using standardized techniques and classified as unfit, average, or fit. Fasting blood samples were assayed for their lipid profile. Specific measures were total serum cholesterol, oxidized-LDL (ox-LDL), HDL, ratio of ox-LDL to HDL cholesterol, and serum triglycerides. For simplicity, this article will simply refer to the lipid profile as either improved, regardless of whether the improvement was across the entire profile or only partially, or not improved.
Consistent with known data, lipid profiles differed by BMI group with increasing BMI associated with a higher risk lipid profile. Within the normal weight group, there was no difference among the aerobic fitness groups but being aerobically fit eliminated the difference between overweight and normal weight in the lipid profile. Similarly, muscular fitness conferred a benefit on the overweight group compared to being unfit.
The authors conclude: “ … good physical fitness could prevent the development of an atherogenic lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects ….” and that “… good cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular fitness seem to protect overweight subjects from the atherogenic lipid profile.”
Many people exercise with the intent of losing weight and stop exercising when they fail to reach their target weight. This ignores the independent health protective effects of exercise for those who are overweight.
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