Physical activity will not undo the negative consequences of obesity on heart health, says a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. A person with excess body weight has an increased risk of having both a heart attack and a stroke even if the person does exercise to keep fit.
"One cannot be 'fat but healthy'," said the study author Dr Alejandro Lucia of the European University, Madrid, Spain.
This study refutes the belief of people that regular physical workouts will eliminate the detrimental effects of excess body fat. This was the first nationwide analysis which revealed that being physically active will not completely protect a person from developing cardiovascular diseases.
The research conducted in Spain included data from 527,662 working adults of average age 42 years, insured by a large occupational risk prevention company in Spain. 32 per cent of the participants were women.
During the study, participants were categorized based on their weight or body mass index: normal, overweight and obese and based on their daily physical activity: regularly active, insufficiently active and inactive. Their cardiovascular health was also determined according to three major risk factors for heart attack and stroke: diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
The researchers analyzed the link between all the categorized groups and found that all BMI levels, belonging to any physical activity group were linked with a lower likelihood of diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol when compared to no exercise at all.
Those who were active and obese had twice the risk of developing high cholesterol. They were also four times more likely to have diabetes and five times more likely to have a high blood pressure than inactive and normal-weight people. While exercise does help in lowering the development of hypertension and diabetes, being fat and fit is a myth according to the researchers.
"This tells us that everyone, irrespective of their body weight, should be physically active to safeguard their health. More activity is better, so walking 30 minutes per day is better than walking 15 minutes a day", said Dr Lucia.
The results of the study suggest that obesity is not the only condition that must be fought against, but the inactivity of people also should be addressed. Shockingly, the majority of the study participants (63.5 per cent) were found to be inactive. While weight loss must be the primary target of healthcare policies, promoting an active lifestyle is equally important.