Ask The Doctor

Being Active Is Vital At Any Age

I am having an argument with my daughter and I’m hoping you can help. She says that I don’t exercise enough. I do not look obese, and probably am of normal weight.
What do you think? She reads The Tablet every week and will listen to your opinion.
Exercise Averse in Elmhurst

Dear Exercise Averse,
I hate to tell you this, but I agree with your daughter regarding this matter.
It is important for people to stay active at any age. By active, I do not mean pumping iron in the gym, but merely walking instead of riding in the car, doing housework, or climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator and adding light weight training. Being active has been shown to have benefits, not only for the body, but also for the mind. As a matter of fact, Sumo wrestlers, who are very obese, are actually in good shape, due to their exercise and weight training schedule.
Normal Weight Obesity
A study published in recent years by the Mayo Clinic describes a condition known as “normal weight obesity.”
This term seems confusing and contradictory, but means that one’s body can appear to have a “normal weight,” and yet be at increased risk for things like heart disease. The scales may tell you that you are O.K. weight-wise, but it is not an accurate depiction of what is occurring on the inside of the body.
Even if someone is not overweight by the scale, the person may have excess fat in his or her body, which puts the person at risk for fat-related disease such as diabetes and heart disease.
It seems that these people have a very high presence of fat, deep within their body, around the organs such as the kidneys and liver. Their muscle mass, or “lean mass” is low compared to the fat present. This ratio is very important in determining one’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and other obesity-related problems.
This study showed that losing weight was not enough in trying to improve one’s overall health. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, combined with moderate weight lifting and resistance training, is an integral part in maintaining heart health and building lean body mass.
We also know that the location of fat in the body is very important in determining how harmful it is to you. Fat around the hips and bottom is “good fat” and actually helps protect you from heart disease and diabetes. Fat around the belly, however, is no good. In fact, if a woman has a waist circumference of more than 35 inches, or a man has a waist of more than 40 inches, then they will be at increased risk.
Therefore, merely measuring one’s weight is not enough. Waist size and muscle mass are much more important in calculating one’s risks.
Women with “normal weight obesity” double their risk of dying from heart and other obesity-related problems. One’s risk is determined by the amount of fat buildup in the body compared to lean muscle mass.
The amount of fat buildup in the body can be accurately noted by a CT scan. There are also machines available which can measure your body fat mass and help guide you as to the type of exercise you might need, such as a combination of walking and weight training.
Spring has sprung so get outside and enjoy an evening walk with your daughter a few times a week. Also, be sure to talk to your doctor about measuring your body fat and ways to increase your activity level.
Until next week, be well.[hr] Dr. Steven Garner is a Fidelis Care provider who is affiliated with New York Methodist Hospital, Park Slope. He also hosts “Ask the Doctor” on NET, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Ch. 97 Time Warner and Ch. 30 Cablevision.

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