We know being physically active is good for health. But losing some excess weight may be more important. Research indicates physical activity alone is not enough fully counteract the detrimental effects of excess body weight. A research group in Spain recently published the results of a new, large observational study to learn more about this issue.
Similar to prior studies, this study found that, at any weight, being more active was associated with health benefits. Additionally, at any activity level—even the highest—excess body weight was associated with higher prevalence of major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. People who were both active and obese in the study were twice as likely as their peers who were inactive but had optimal weight to have high LDL (bad) cholesterol, five times as likely to have high blood pressure, and four times as likely to have diabetes.
The authors concluded that meeting or exceeding physical activity recommendations (150 minutes per week moderate activity or 75 minutes per week vigorous activity) is important across all BMI categories, and that reducing excess body weight should remain a primary focus of efforts to improve cardiovascular health.
The study was conducted in Spain, where diet and lifestyle modestly differ from that of the U.S. While we don’t have all the answers yet, it is clear that physical activity is beneficial at any size and any age and that it’s essential to eat a healthy diet in moderation, because activity alone does not offset the harmful effects of excess body weight.