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A couple of weeks ago, the Globe’s Margaret Wente published an article called “Get fat, live longer,” spurred by a recent Statscan study suggesting that overweight people live longer than normal-weight people. It launched a bit of an Internet firestorm as people forwarded the article around with glee. The article itself was reasonably good, with the exception of one major clunker: she said that “obese” people (BMI 30-35) lived longer, whereas in fact it was just “overweight” people (BMI 25-30) who demonstrated the effect. Still, the message many people took from the article — “get fat, live longer,” — wasn’t quite what the research suggested. So I decided to address a couple of points in this week’s Jockology column:
Statistics Canada says being overweight makes you live longer. Should I stop exercising?
Let’s start with the facts. In June, Statistics Canada researchers did indeed publish a study in the journal Obesity based on a 12-year analysis of 11,326 Canadian adults in the National Population Health Survey. They found that subjects who were overweight (body mass index of 25 to 30) were 17 per cent less likely to die during the study period than those of normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 25).
Now on to the interpretation.
These results fit right in with a growing amount of evidence that body weight is not the absolute indicator of health we once thought.
But that doesn’t mean exercise isn’t important. In fact, it turns out that physical fitness is a far better barometer of your long-term health than weight is – and that holds true even for thin but inactive people who thought their fabulous metabolism meant they didn’t need to exercise at all. [read the rest of the column…]