Here’s Why The Number On The Scale Doesn’t Depict Overall Wellness And Health - Women's Health

Here’s Why The Number On The Scale Doesn’t Depict Overall Wellness And Health

A recent study has found that the body mass index is deeply flawed and that, rather than focusing on weight loss as a predictor of overall health and wellness, we should place greater importance on movement.

Growing up, most of us were introduced to the Body Mass Index in primary school. At some point, PE lessons went from running around play equipment and crawling under the rainbow-coloured parachute, to learning about the food pyramid and those items that should be saved for “special occasions” or “tread days”. Whether we knew it or not, we were slowly being primed for a tumultuous adulthood where food labels had to be examined with a discerning eye. But while the media and many a Hollywood rom-com or film has portrayed weight loss as the sole indicator of health and wellness, health experts are now leaning to embrace the idea that people can be “fit and fat”. No longer is body mass index seen as providing a good picture of a person’s health. 

According to a recent scientific review, overall health and wellness can’t be predicted by a number on a scale. As the study, published in the journal of iScience suggests, we should rather be focusing on exercise which is more important than weight loss and the number on the scale when it comes to heart health and living a long life. 

“We would like people to know that fat can be fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes,” study researchers Glenn Gaesser, of the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University, said in a statement. 

While obesity is a growing health crisis around the world and has seen an increasing number of people die from conditions like heart disease, scientists remain adamant that focusing too much on weight loss misses the point. “The intense focus on weight loss has not prevented excessive weight gain in recent decades,” the new review states. “Moreover, repeated weight loss efforts may contribute to weight gain, and is undoubtedly associated with the high prevalence of weight cycling, which is associated with significant health risks.”

In the study, researchers analysed hundreds of studies that examined how weight loss, exercise and longevity fit together. They focused specifically on research that looked at health outcomes in people who were considered overweight or obese and found evidence showed being active trumps weight loss when it comes to improving heart health and reducing overall mortality risk. The study found that those considered obese may have a lower risk of premature death compared to those with a normal weight who aren’t in good shape. 

The idea of “fit and fat” is often known as metabolically healthy obesity, and relates to those who may be considered overweight based on their BMI but don’t have any cardiovascular disease risk factors like cholesterol or high blood pressure. It’s recommended that adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, as well as at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. This doesn’t mean lacing up and pounding the pavement to clock up 15 miles in a day, but can even include dancing around the house for 15 minutes, walking briskly, or even pushing a vacuum cleaner around the living room for some more strenuous cleaning. And, per the CDC, gardening or doing yoga can also count as strengthening exercises. 

There remains a stigma attached to those perceived as overweight, when the truth is that we need to acknowledge that everyone looks different. Bodies came in all different shapes and sizes and should be embraced. We need to steer away from body-shaming and understand that if health is the goal, it’s going to look different for everyone but the thing that matters is that we move our bodies, treat them kindly and are patient with them. 

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