‘Active chubby’ or sedentary thin: why doesn’t the comparison make sense? – 09/02/2021

Quickly answer: is it better to be overweight and exercise regularly or be up to date with the scales, but to be a regular on the sofa at home?

If you answered the second option, know that you are not alone: ​​for cultural reasons, we are used to associating thinness with health, which is not always true. But on the other hand, if you think that being a “fat athlete” also leaves you free to enjoy life without worries, you’re wrong too.

Amazingly, there is no good choice in this comparison. “It’s like asking to choose between being diabetic or hypertensive,” he says Inês Remígio, cardiologist at the Hospital das Clínicas at UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco), who is part of the Ebserh Network. “It’s a bad comparison, as neither of the two options is good and both present real health risks”, he warns.

Obviously, if someone with extra pounds decides to exercise, that’s a good thing and should be maintained. “But it’s not enough,” he explains eudes Godoy, surgeon bariatric and metabolic by the University Hospital Onofre Lopes, of UFRN (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte), which is also part of the Network Ebserh. “It is necessary to control other risk factors, such as diet, stress and family inheritance”, he says, adding: “The best thing is to be someone with normal weight and active.”

Risks for both

The association between thinness and health is not new and is still quite perpetuated. It is common to find people who believe that a body within the currently accepted aesthetic standards is automatically healthy and without risk of developing obesity-related diseases, such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes and hypertension. But that’s not true.

“A thin individual may have little lean mass and more body fat, a problematic hereditary inheritance, a poor diet and be stressed a lot, for example”, he says. Godoy. “All this puts him at risk,” he warns.

On the other hand, it is important to say that an overweight or obese person who practices physical activity is also not free from having problems — even if clinical indicators such as cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure are satisfactory.

“These numbers can change throughout life”, assesses the expert. “Today we know that being overweight places the individual in the risk group for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, whether he is active or not,” he says.

And those aren’t the only problems. Obesity can also cause sleep apnea and mobility problems. “Overweight in itself already affects the body’s joints, overloading these areas and increasing the risk of orthopedic diseases”, says endocrinologist Lorena Lima Amato, professor of Clinical Medicine/Endocrinology at the Faculty of Medicine, Nove de Julho University, in São Paulo. Paul.

Search for health, not fitness

An important caveat needs to be made. For cultural reasons as well, we are used to using the term “chubby” both for obese individuals and for people with normal weight, but who have wide hips or thick thighs, for example – and who are outside the accepted thin and athletic standard ( and desired) currently.

It is precisely in order not to fall into this issue of “personal opinion” that specialists point out that, more than an aesthetic shape or the weight indicated on the scale, people should seek to understand their body composition when guiding any change in lifestyle and in the search for more health.

“A person can be aesthetically thin, but have a very high percentage of fat, which is terrible”, explains Diego Leite de Barros, physiologist at Hospital do Coração – HCor and executive director of DLB Sports consultancy. “On the other hand, another individual may have a high weight, but mostly have lean mass, which is not bad,” he says.

There is still another important factor to be analyzed: the location of the fat. People considered thin, but with a “belly of Draft beer“—that is, the “false thin” with excess visceral fat—have an increased risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some cancers such as breast and colon cancer.

Therefore, in the assessment, doctors also take into account the measurement of abdominal circumference to know how well the patient’s health is. In Brazil, a maximum of 80 cm is established for women and 94 cm for men.

“One thing doesn’t make up for the other,” says Godoy. “It is the set of attitudes that will bring us more quality of life over the years,” he says.