Exercise and Obesity Can Coexist for Health

You don’t have to be small and trim to reap the benefits of exercise. Exercise can decrease your cardiovascular risk even if you’re in a higher-BMI category.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t train away a bad diet!” Basically, it means that no amount of exercise can make up for poor eating habits. Overeating and poor food choices will always defeat the hour or two you spend at the gym. Think about it: one donut equals 300 calories, while 30 minutes of jogging equals 300 calories burned. How many donuts can you eat?

Here’s a new (and less catchy) one for you: “Benefits of physical activity may outweigh the impact of overweight and obesity on cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and elderly people.” This comes from a recent study from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, which found that the benefits of exercise are able to decrease the risks of being overweight/obese.

The study observed 5,000 people over the age of 55 for more than 15 years. All of the people were free of cardiovascular disease at the onset of the study and were grouped into the normal, overweight, and obese categories. During the 15 years, 16% of the people studied suffered cardiovascular events. But upon examination of the lifestyle factors of the participants, it was discovered that those who engaged in physical activity had a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, even if they were in the higher BMI (obese) category.

According to the doctor leading the study, “In the overall population, we found that physical activity was protective for cardiovascular risk.” The BMI of the participants had no significant effect on their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Take note: this is a study conducted on people over the age of 55 (up to 97), so it needs to be made clear that these effects (of exercise and BMI) are for the elderly. Being obese or overweight in your 20s through 50s can drastically increase your cardiovascular risk. Gaining a bit of weight/body fat once you hit your 60s and 70s may not have as much effect on your heart as it would earlier in your life.

But you know what will have an effect on your heart? Exercise. Exercise can decrease your cardiovascular risk even if you’re in a higher-BMI category. High levels of physical activity can bestow cardioprotective benefits: lower the effects of atherosclerosis, strengthen the heart and lungs, reduce the heart’s oxygen demand, and lower blood pressure. The result: a healthier, happier you with the possibility of a longer life.


1. Chantal M Koolhaas, Klodian Dhana, Josje D Schoufour, M Arfan Ikram, Maryam Kavousi, Oscar H Franco. “Impact of physical activity on the association of overweight and obesity with cardiovascular disease: The Rotterdam Study.” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2017; 204748731769395.