Exercisers have the upper hand, regardless of body size

One of the many things we look at here in the DiSH lab is how health can come in many different sizes and several of our studies emphasize the importance of understanding that weight is not a good indicator of health.

Results from a recent study conducted at the University of Cambridge mirror this paradigm. The researchers found that twice as many early deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity as to obesity. The researchers measured the link between physical activity and premature death, and its interaction with obesity. They found that the association between early death and exercise was independent of a person’s BMI, and that the greatest risk group for premature death was being inactive.

The study was conducted by analyzing data from 334,161 European men and women participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study. Over the course of 12 years, participants’ height, weight, and waist circumference were measured, and levels of physical activity was recorded through participants’ self-reports.

Results from the study indicated that even just engaging in a 20 minute walk per day would take an individual from the inactive to the moderately inactive group, and that this would reduce the risk for premature death by between 16% and 30%.

“This is a simple message: just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive”, says Dr. Ulf Ekelund from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Nick Wareham, Director of the MRC Unit, adds: “Helping people to lose weight can be a real challenge, and while we should continue to aim at reducing population levels of obesity, public health interventions that encourage people to make small but achievable changes in physical activity can have significant health benefits and may be easier to achieve and maintain.”

Read more about the study here!