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Study: Being Fit and Fat isn't Rare

Jezebel recently posted a link to a Science Daily article: Making the Move to Exercise for Overweight and Obese People, which - ironically, given the title - discusses a recent study indicating that many people who are classified as overweight and obese are (shock! surprise!) long-term regular exercisers.

Researchers surveyed the activities and intensions of 175 overweight and obese people who visited clinics run or owned by nurse practitioners in Spokane, Wash. Those individuals, who answered questions on several behavior tests, were 40 years old or older and had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or higher -- the range for overweight and obese.

The investigators found that 29 percent had been exercising for six months, 39 percent regularly exercised and 25 percent contemplated exercising. Only 12 percent had no desire or thoughts of getting active.

Since this study didn't use a representative sample (a relatively small number of women over 40 with 25+ BMIs who had visited one of a few clinics in Spokane, Washington?) and relied on self-reporting, I think it's safe to say that it's not a gold-standard piece of science. And, because of the study's limitations, it's not possible to make a meaningful comparison between the exercise habits of people in different BMI ranges.

However, it busts some myths and it does correspond to what we see here in the fatosphere: that many people who are quite heavy are also quite physically active, and that it doesn't make us thin. Even more shockingly, we don't necessarily stay active in hope of becoming thin.

We're active because we have interests and hobbies that involve movement. We're active because it makes us stronger and more capable. We're active because it gives us energy. We're active because it helps control depression. We're active because walking and biking are cheap, environmentally friendly forms of transport (yes, many fat people are greenies). We're active because of the social benefits. We're active because it can bring us closer to nature. We're active because types of exercise like yoga, tai chi and dance can be spiritual practices. We're active because we're competitive and enjoy playing sports. We're active because it feels good to connect with and revel in our bodies. Hell, we may even do it a little bit out of vanity. It makes out bodies firmer and more shapely and improves posture and ease of movement.

In other words, we're active for the same reasons that thin people are active.

One of the worst things that the diet-and-exercise juggernaut does to us is turn us against physical movement, making us think of it as punishment for being fat; almost a form of torture.

We deserve to have joyful movement in our lives! When disability, a lack of time, or a lack opportunity stands in the way, it's not something to feel guilty about. It's just a damn shame. Now, some of us have been scarred by obsessive exercise that's been tied to weight loss attempts and/or would just rather read in their spare time - and that's fine. Exercise isn't some kind of duty or requirement. However, there's no doubt in my mind that regular movement that we enjoy can help us to lead longer and better lives.

So... I'll end by linking to a kind of silly, kind of helpful, HAES-friendly CBS News slideshow, 12 fitness tips for fat folks.

Illinois State Rep Has a Really Bad Idea | Glenn Beck is Basically an 11 Year Old Bully

Wanderer's picture
May 16th, 2011 | Link | Great article, but...

... you can almost hear the Usual Suspects, can't you? "Yes, well, fat people lie, you know. They don't *really* exercise..."

Still, good to see the truth get out there.

DeeLeigh's picture
May 16th, 2011 | Link | Or, "oh, they're obviously

Or, "oh, they're obviously not doing it right." In other words, whatever we're doing is the wrong thing (either not enough cardio or not enough strength training), not intense enough, or not for long enough. I've seen so many discussions like that.

But, since we're active for the same reasons thin people are and are not necessarily doing what we do to try to become thin, then 'doing it right' in the sense they mean is not a real issue. If you define proper exercise as 'whatever it takes to keep you thin,' then for some thin people it's going to be nothing at all, and for some fat people it's not possible or ridiculously time consuming and unpleasant.

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