Fit Fatties May Outlive Thin Couch Potatoes

Photo (cc) by Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Most adults don’t get enough exercise, recent government stats show. Many of us also don’t know much about health and fitness.

For instance, there’s a widespread belief that thin people are in better shape than heavyset ones. While it’s true that obese, physically inactive people have the highest mortality risk, the generalization falls short, fitness expert Helen Vanderburg says in the Calgary Herald.

The problem, she says, is that myths are often half-right — and they sound intuitively right in a world saturated with both fat and misinformation. Here are the claims she addressed, along with the reality.

Claim: A long, low-intensity workout is better than a shorter, high-intensity one.

“In fact, you do burn a higher percentage of fat for fuel at lower intensity,” Vanderburg says. But the main focus should be on calories, and a higher-intensity workout burns more per minute. Beginners and irregular exercisers should start at a low intensity and work their way up. “If you are fit, train at the intensity level you can manage for the time you have to work out,” she says.

Claim: Pedaling faster on exercise bikes is better.

Riding a real bike is good exercise because the terrain creates resistance on the pedals that makes our muscles work harder, Vanderburg says. On an indoors bike, that resistance is simulated — you can pedal much faster, but at a lower-than-natural resistance that burns fewer calories. “The recommended rpm range for the best training results and a lower risk of injury is 60 to 100. Then play with your resistance to give you the workout intensity desired,” she says.

Claim: Thin people are in better shape than heavyset people.

Extra weight increases the risk of conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, Vanderburg says. But physically active overweight individuals “may actually have a lower risk for mortality when compared to those individuals who are classified as normal weight but are sedentary or unfit,” she says. Whoever has better cardiorespiratory fitness is generally at the lower risk.

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