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Can You Be Fit and Fat?

by Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom

Only when you learn how to “size yourself up” can you figure out the answer that applies to you. While it’s always important to track your body weight and BMI, your body fat percentage is also a number you’ll want to know. Often people attribute extra weight to “muscle mass” resulting from exercise.

While a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Penguins might fall into the “overweight” category, professional (not weekend-warriors!) athletes tend to have a low percent body fat, and their extra pounds are a health plus, related to extra muscle, not fat.

If you find your own body fat is lower, yet you’re overweight, being “fit and fat” are compatible.

Women should aim for a body fat of 23% or less, and men for 18% or less to be in the healthy range.

Sadly, that’s not the case for most of us. But there is still some good news. Research shows consistent health advantages in cardiovascular performance and other health measures, with regular physical activity, even without weight loss. Improved health is not only related to the number on the scale. Physical activity (with your doctor’s clearance) is always a health plus.