Most people lately are focused on the weight-loss benefits of exercise which is of course a huge benefit. But its impact on our overall health might be even more important.
From a write-up in the New York Times: “A recent study, which analyzed the results of hundreds of previous studies of weight loss and workouts in men and women, found that obese people typically lower their risks of heart disease and premature death far more by gaining fitness than by dropping weight or dieting.”
Wow, ok so less disease risk and early death because you exercised? That works for me. You too? The study, published in iScience in September, pooled the results of more than 200 meta-analyses focused on whether overweight individuals were able to lower their risk of premature death more by exercising or losing weight.
The results weren’t even close.
From the Times:
As a whole, the studies they cite show that sedentary, obese men and women who begin to exercise and improve their fitness can lower their risk of premature death by as much as 30 percent or more, even if their weight does not budge. This improvement generally puts them at lower risk of early death than people who are considered to be of normal weight but out of shape, said Dr. Glenn Gaesser, co-author and professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State.
Read that again.
Of course, we’d all love to drop a few pounds and look better in our clothes and out of them. But there are two takeaways that I think are important here:
- Nutritional intervention has been shown in study after study to be more effective for weight loss than exercise alone.
- Weight loss isn’t the only benefit of exercise — if it’s a benefit at all — and so it shouldn’t be our sole motivation for doing it.
How about being stronger and more capable?
How about being more resistant to disease?
How about getting out of pain?
How about living longer?
Those seem like much better reasons to me than dropping a dress size or fitting into skinny jeans, right?
So that’s great, Coach, but I’m not obese. How does that affect me? Well consider the last part of the summary attributed to Dr. Gaesser: “People who are overweight but exercise consistently are at a lower risk of premature death than those who are of normal weight but out of shape.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m about to go knock out a band workout or two, instead of stepping on the scale.