Being Fit Doesn’t Mean Being Thin

by Jeanne Rhodes

Individuals who are only moderately overweight but who exercise consistently and eat a balanced diet are healthier than those who diet to maintain a thin appearance. Dr. Glenn Gazer, Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology at the university of Virginia states, “The only way to measure your health is to monitor blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. We have been inundated to believe that you must be thin to be healthy and it just ain’t so!” Healthy eating and regular exercise will help make anyone fit, regardless of their weight

A recent report by the Surgeon General revealed that the large majority of Americans do not exercise enough to enjoy any health benefits. The consequences of this inactivity are costly and severe. They include heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, stroke, cancer, diabetes, premature death, and poor quality of life, to name just a few.

According to the Center for Disease Control, physical inactivity has ripple effects, which go beyond unnecessary illness. The expense to our health care system in treating cases of preventable disease created by sedentary lifestyles runs over $24.3 billion each year, fueling the burgeoning federal deficit, and raising our insurance premiums and taxes!

The Surgeon General’s report represents the support physical educators and health professionals have needed for years. To encourage people to become active, the National Health and Fitness Coalition Members plan to launch a variety of programs aimed at introducing sedentary people to exercise.

The good news about exercise and health is that it helps people suffering from back pain, depression, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, etc., as they enjoy impressive improvements in their conditions with an increase in the quality of their lives. People who are not active can improve their health by becoming just moderately active - examples suggested in the Surgeon General’s report are walking, strength training, group exercise, gardening and competitive sports.

Many times the very reasons people choose not to exercise are the reasons they should. Conversely, the reasons people often stop exercising are due to their individual genetic options. Research on exercise adherence shows that many people stop exercising and eating well because they do not see quick results or the exact results they want. The problem is in respecting your body’s genetic potential. If you have a naturally rounder, fuller body, and want to look like a super model, you are setting an impossible goal.

The newest research on health and appearance supports a genetic consideration when setting personal goals. In studying the health of individuals, it has been proven that consistent exercise combined with eating a balanced diet is a more accurate indicator of health than a thin appearance.

By focusing on health, we lose the obsession of having the “perfect” body. Health comes in many shapes and sizes. The type of body which makes many of our Olympic females excel at their sport is viewed as “too heavy” when seen through the eyes of our model-obsessed society. However, if health is the focus, the Olympic athlete is considerably superior to the model!

By making health the goal, based on living a balanced life, we save our health care industry billions of dollars each year and we enjoy a higher quality of life. Decide on an activity today, this minute, begin slowly and consistently, and make health your major goal - your body will love you for it!

Rhodes, B.A., M.A., is a Nutritionist, Wellness Lifestyle Strategist, Author, and Director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown.