If you can’t get to what’s considered a healthy weight, don’t freak out! If a study says that overweight people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, that does not mean you will: Many heavy women never come down with the condition. The stated risk refers to a large population of study participants, not an individual, says Yvonne Braver, MD, a women’s health specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. We can probably all point to a rotund relative or acquaintance who lived to a happy old age without many health problems.
What’s more, there are other ways to improve your health besides losing weight. Much research points to the effectiveness of following the Mediterranean diet (which emphasizes fish, whole grains, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and olive oil) in lowering your odds of developing heart disease.
And then there’s the benefit of simply moving. “The way to get as healthy as you can, regardless of your weight, is with exercise,” says Steven Blair, PED, professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, in Columbia. In his research of almost 10,000 women, those who were moderately fit (based on a treadmill test that measured oxygen uptake, or how much oxygen the body uses during an activity), even if they were overweight or obese, had about a 50 percent lower risk of dying prematurely than women who were couch potatoes.
“If someone is not able to achieve a BMI within the normal range, then at least staying active and becoming fit does have health benefits,” says Donald Hensrud, MD, associate professor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.The exercise recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association is: Do either moderately intense cardio (like brisk walking) 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or do intense cardio (like running) 20 minutes a day, three days a week. Then add eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, twice a week.