Science study on "fit and fat" but those who are overweight must not find comfort in this

Published 31 October 2013
Champion cricketer Shane Warne in his hey day claimed he was 'cricket fit' although clearly on the hefty side and the same can be said for current cricket star Aaron Finch. So too the 'Forwards' in these Super 16 Rugby teams and likewise the Shot Put and Discus athletic champions.

Even in my late forties when still playing field hockey in Moruya and a man well on the larger size, I found I was 'hockey fit' as by that time after 40 years of hockey experience I had a good idea of where to be when.

None of this is new, there have always been larger people in sports who are what is referred to as 'Sport Fit' - as it has as much to do with a psychological mind-set involving enjoyment and engagement – as it does with a physical fitness. The two are by no means in parallel,

But its not only 'Sport' that involves this phenomenon of 'fit and fat' as there are many cultures where 'fit and fat' has consistently been a genetic part of those people's lives. In our own corner of the world we can point to numerous South Pacific people groups.

But now scientists in a recent report are looking at this quantum factor of why some people are literally 'fit and fat' that bears no relationship it seems to all the medical and clinical issues that are thrust at us all. (

The question put is whether you are healthy fat? Scientists are seriously looking at why some people with a high body mass index do not appear to be at an increased risk of the health complications usually associated with excess weight.

Surprise surprise, this research is not pure research for a scientific result, rather this 'fat and fit' issue relates ensuring patients are given appropriate and cost-effective treatment putting less pressure on the public purse. In other words, those who are 'fit and fat' should not be sent down the public health line of multiple medical tests and health plans that costs that adds more and more to the limited health budgets of Governments around the world.

The article cites new research published in The Lancet medical journal, where scientists say costly weight-loss interventions, such as gastric band surgery, could then be targeted to only the most at-risk overweight people.

Fit and Fat

The 'fit and fat' - or those with "metabolically healthy obesity" have a body mass index greater than 30 but are protected from health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The articles quoted Dr Adam Fraser, a physiologist at the Glucose Club, who said that such research was "critical" to measuring the impact on Australia's health budget.

Dr Fraser noted that he's come across a number of these people (but) society is massively hung up on weight. He said the fact some healthy people were "still carrying too much weight around (their) stomach" should not be a negative thing.

"There's lots of skinny people who are unhealthy," he said. "What all this data is focusing on is that being physically active and eating well has benefits beyond just how you look in the mirror. We have to change the perception - just because you're skinny doesn't mean you're healthy."

Many heart attack victims for example, are by no means overweight. There is a surprising number of people who have heart attacks playing tennis or jogging or some such physical activity, who are what we might consider to be housing a great figure

Dr Jarrod Meerkin, a spokesman for Exercise and Sports Science Australia, said there certainly are many people who wander around who, if they are measure outside the (healthy BMI scale) ... might be still considered quite fit as well. He warns against people finding comfort in the "fat but fit" approach, because being overweight still had strong links with serious health problems.

Having said that, he made the point that people who carried more weight faced a greater risk of long-term medical issues and it was important they be more vigilant about their health. This is the reality rub.

There is a fad amongst sections of the Pentecostal clergy to have personal trainers and maintain a hefty physical fitness program. This research is showing that this effort may be more psychological as being seen as 'attractive' rather than medically beneficial in terms of physical fitness to age.

Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.

Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at


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