There are many dimensions you can measure your health by. You can use BMI – although we know that’s flawed. Or you can use VO2 Max as a measure of your cardiovascular system. But most of us, including doctors, fall back on the simplest measurement – weight.
Why is this? And what’s the impact?
A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity looked at a number of different factors that can be used to assess health and found that weight was, at best, a very coarse measure.
Why do we focus on weight?
I think there are two reasons the medical profession has driven us to looking at weight as a key health indicator.
- There are correlations between being overweight and poor health outcomes
- It’s easy to measure
There’s also a social element and that’s community standards that equate being thin with attractiveness and, therefore, health.
What did the study find?
The study in the International Journal of Obesity examined the health risks for about 75 million Americans. That study measured metabolic health by looking at six indicators: blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin resistance, cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein (a sign of cellular stress).
The findings are quite stunning.
29% of people classed as obese and 47% of people classed as overweight are healthy.
30% of “normal weight” people are at risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Think about that. Over three-quarters of the population that are classed as either overweight or obese are healthy. And almost a third of the people we see as healthy are at risk of serious conditions.
What can we do?
The simple answer is exercise.
Numerous studies, such as one published by the Journal of the American Association, another published in Lancet and a review of other research conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration all came to similar conclusions.
Exercise makes a massive difference in your overall health. And the benefits can be independent of weight loss.