Tammy Chang, University of Michigan and Caroline R Richardson, University of Michigan.
There is a longstanding debate in the research community about the importance of fitness versus diet in health. Are exercise and improving fitness more important than eating well and maintaining a healthy weight?
Some researchers argue body weight does not affect health as long as you are fit, which means your heart and lungs are strong. And national campaigns like Let’s Move are focused on exercise for health without a specific focus on weight loss.
But for people who are obese, losing weight might be more important to their overall health than focusing on fitness. In fact, evidence shows that exercise alone is not an effective way to lose weight. Rather, effective weight loss is mostly about what you eat, though it should also include exercise. (Post continues after video.)
As family physicians, we see obese patients who have heard the message to “just be fit” and have added 10 to 15 minutes of walking to their daily routine or have bought a Fitbit to track their physical activity. We applaud these efforts.
But for many obese people, the message that physical activity is more important than managing weight is not only unhelpful but also not true. When it comes to health and wellness, body weight can matter more than fitness. And of course, for most people, body weight is related to fitness, because excess weight can make exercise much harder.