Can you be fit and fat?

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This is a massive topic of debate that has recently been questioned in the tabloids.
Is it possible to be ‘fat’ yet still be considered fit and healthy?

Notice I’ve put the word fat in quotation marks. That’s because the tabloids don’t ever seem to give a clear definition.

To me, a fat person is someone who is carrying excess body fat (+20% for men, +30% for women).
To news reporters, fat seems to refer to someone who is overweight when assessed on BMI (Body Mass Index). Herein lies a massive issue to begin with. The BMI scale is a tool used to measure someones height to weight ratio and isn’t indicative of fat percentages at all. BMI is only used as it is a way to measure a lot of people quickly and cheaply. To determine if an individual is over fat and at risk of ill health, further assessments would need to be performed. To get an actual body fat indication, assessments such as skinfold thickness measurements would be more appropriate (as a bare minimum). Regardless, let’s quickly look at some ‘high’ BMI figures in regards to fitness.

  • Christine Ohuruogu won the silver medal in the women’s 400m at the London Olympics – with a BMI of 27. So according to the scale she is considered overweight and at risk of illness.
  • Chris Hoy, Great Britian’s most successful olympian, had a BMI of 27.2 during the 2012 London Olympics. Funnily, this would have had doctors telling him to watch his calorie intake!

The two examples above are just a sample, but it’s clear that BMI just isn’t relevant on an individual scale. Can people be ‘overweight’ and fit? Of course! The evidence is above!

Now on to fatness.
Can you have a higher than normal body fat percentage and be fit and healthy? My answer is YES!
Just because a person is over fat, it doesn’t mean they aren’t fit and healthy! Having a high percentage of body fat does put a person at a higher risk of illness, but what has been discovered is that a lack of physical activity puts you at an even higher risk! Therefore with that logic, a person who has a high percentage of body fat but is moderately active is at less risk of illness than someone with less body fat who leads a sedentary lifestyle.

Now don’t misunderstand me, being over fat has risk factors even if you are currently fit, healthy and living an active lifestyle. However, leading an inactive lifestyle is worse. My advice? Just be active!

One other thing to remember. You can be fat and fit but you can also be slim and unfit/unhealthy! Visceral fat can accumulate around the internal organs of the body, without necessarily being seen on the outside. Therefore just because someone looks fit and healthy it doesn’t definitely make it so. Everyone should lead an active lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of illness, regardless of how fat they are.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘use it or lose it’? Well this is especially true in regards to your body and fitness. Leading an active lifestyle will help you to stay fit and healthy.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below. Also, don’t forget to check out my active lifestyle tips for ways to stay active throughout your day!

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About Author

As a physical education graduate and qualified personal trainer, Mathew is very knowledgable when it comes to fitness. Outdoor training is a personal favourite of Mathew's but he also has a high degree of gym based experience. Location: Carlisle

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