A very recently published paper in the medical journal BMJ has found that thick thighs might just save lives. Let me explain: the study, which incorporated some 2.5 million human beings, was seeking out a relationship of body fat in different parts of the body and mortality. It found a number of associations in the meta-analysis of the massive amounts of data the researchers, an international cohort of scientists, discovered.
Two main findings? One — that the more fat you carry around your belly, the more likely you are to die early of any cause, even if you don’t have a lot of body fat in general — and two, that bigger hips and thighs were associated with a lower risk of early death. Belly fat, the findings of the study suggest, is a more important indicator of health than weight alone, making the BMI a less valuable indicator of health than exactly where fat might be distributed on the body.
Over the course of the study, researchers had participants measure key parts of their body like waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, and a body shape metric — these tend to be key metrics of fatness. As little as a four-inch increase in waist circumference was associated with an 11 percent higher risk of all-cause mortality, meaning death from any cause, whereas a four-inch increase in hip circumference was associated with a 10 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality and a two-inch increase in thigh circumference was associated with an 18% lower risk.
Researchers suggest that when hips and thighs grow, that’s not just an indication of the growth of body fat, but also an indicator of the amount of muscle in the powerhouse of muscle that is known as the lower body. A thicker waist has long been associated with harmful health conditions like diabetes and heart attack, whereas pear-shaped bodies — i.e. bodies with thick thighs and hips — are associated with more positive markers of health.
All in all, everyone should focus on a healthy diet and regular exercise and movement throughout their daily lives. There’s no replacement for healthy living, and healthy people come in all shapes, sizes, and types. Have some fruit and vegetables, lots of water, and walk regularly, stubborn belly fat or thick thighs be damned.