The Skinny Myth


What is healthy? Are those individuals with the smallest jean size the healthiest? Or are those with the ability to climb stairs without breathing heavily, no matter their size, healthier? New research is showing us that the greatest advantage for longevity and overall health is not a low body weight but cardiovascular fitness. The study found individuals with the lowest level of fitness, as measured on treadmill tests, were four times as likely to die (over a 12 year period) than those with the highest level of fitness. Even those who had just a minimal level of fitness had half the risk of dying compared with those who were least fit. So what is this saying exactly? Show your skinny, unfit friends how it’s done and GET MOVING!

 As a practitioner I am constantly trying to reinforce the fact that fitness, not weight loss, should be the measure of health and that this is only achieved by a lifestyle change incorporating sweat equity and not by any fad diet. For a real shift in your overall health you must be conscious of what you are eating combined with increasing your cardiovascular fitness levels and establishing physical activity as a habit.  How is this achieved? Find fitness activities you like to do! Join a running group (insert shameless plug here!), take a brisk walk, join a sports team, or buy a piece of cardio equipment for home.

 So please, don’t measure health by pounds – focus on your overall fitness level. Set a goal. Sign up for an event. Who cares what you look like in spandex? Go to any road race around the city and watch the runners. They come in all sizes and are getting it done!   By getting out there and being active they are building muscle and cardiovascular health with each step. You just have to make the choice to be healthy – go ahead, take that first step!



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 Xuemei Sui, MD; Michael J. LaMonte, PhD; James N. Laditka, PhD; James W. Hardin, PhD; Nancy Chase, BS; Steven P. Hooker, PhD; Steven N. Blair, PED. Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Adiposity as Mortality Predictors in Older Adults. JAMA. 2007;298(21):2507-2516.

Rachel P. Wildman, PhD; Paul Muntner, PhD; Kristi Reynolds, PhD; Aileen P. McGinn, PhD; Swapnil Rajpathak, MD, DrPH; Judith Wylie-Rosett, EdD; MaryFran R. Sowers, PhD . The Obese Without Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering and the Normal Weight With Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering:  Prevalence and Correlates of 2 Phenotypes Among the US Population (NHANES 1999-2004) Copyright 2008 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.  Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1617-1624.