Active Seniors

Being thin and being healthy – one in the same?

Human nature is such that we typically judge a persons level of health by their body size. But is this really a good indication?

There seems to be logic behind this assumption. The smaller someone is, the less fat they are likely to carry. However over the years studies have continued to show that body size is a poor indicator of health.

Good health relies on a number of attributes including cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength as well as chemical factors such as pH. Exercise has an extremely important influence on health. In fact regular exercise is so important, that your level of physical fitness is a better indicator of health than your body size.

People who are overweight but physically fit are half as likely to die from chronic diseases as people who are considered to be in a healthy weight range but don’t exercise. This mainly boils down to factors such as body composition and fat distribution. Being “normal” weight but carrying most of your fat in the abdominal area is significantly unhealthy and is linked with many chronic health conditions. This type of fat is called visceral fat and it produces hormones and proteins that can affect your blood sugar control and cholesterol levels. 

Unlike the more common body fat that we can easily see, visceral fat is often not as obvious as the fat is stored in amongst your organs and therefore not always visible. This is probably the reason why most health professionals don’t rely on BMI as a good indicator of health. BMI uses a ratio of your height and bodyweight and does not take into account body composition. The best way to determine if you are carrying too much visceral fat is to have a body composition scan such as a DEXA. This will allow you to determine accurately what your body fat levels are and where the fat is located. 

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