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Obesity Fact #3: Physical Activity Improves Health

There is certainly no arguing with obesity fact #3 from the New England Journal of Medicine paper:

“Regardless of body weight or weight loss, an increased level of exercise increases health”

There are indeed countless studies showing how even moderately increasing physical activity can improve glucose metabolism, increase healthy HDL cholesterol, improve cardio-respiratory fitness, improve mood and general well-being, reduces stress levels, improves sleep and even helps ward off some cancers.

However, these studies also show that for most people, losing weight is not one of the benefits of being more active (after all it’s called “working up an appetite” for a reason!).

Thus, while exercise is not the panacea for weight loss (or even preventing weight gain), it is certainly the panacea for good health.

Fortunately for those who may not happen to be the biggest activity enthusiasts, even very moderately increasing activity levels for a few minutes a day can have significant benefits. Indeed, when it comes to the health benefits of exercise – less, done regularly, is often more (especially if you are at a higher weight).

Remember, if you can lift 300 pounds out of that chair and carry them across the room – you’re already an athlete in my books.

Edmonton, AB


  1. I think a lot of well-meaning people have, intentionally or not, exaggerated the weight-loss benefits of exercise in order to get people to exercise. Unfortunately, this backfires because when the weight loss doesn’t come, people stop exercising.

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  2. Valid point re: hefting 300 pounds out of a chair and walking across the room.

    I started out by leisurely walking around (inside) my house for ten minutes at a time, two or three times per day. Nearly killed my legs and hips, but within the month… whee!!

    As for the effects of weight loss, it’s hard for me to say because I began eating food and doing my little stroll in the house at the same time. But, if the “calculators” are correct, even sitting at the computer burns off calories, so… the more you exercise the more you’re going to allow yourself to eat, perhaps.

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  3. Fantastic post. This is something everyone should know. Regular activity is, in my experience, the most effective way to improve health and quality of life regardless of any effect it may have on weight. Almost all of the real (as opposed to social) disadvantages of being heavy can be eliminated – or at least mitigated – by developing the strength and stamina necessary to make a heavy body feel light.

    Also, you are absolutely right about the fact that it takes strength and a certain level of fitness to manage an unusually heavy body with grace and control. Of course, many fat people take it a step further than that and develop a high level of fitness and athletic skill.

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