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Dad Bod Be Damned: Being Active is Better Than Losing Weight

A new study has found that being physically active, rather than being thin, is the key to a long and healthy life.

A new study has found that for people with obesity, exercising is way more important than losing weight when it comes to lowering the risk of early death. That’s right, dad bod-havers of the world: Being active matters way more than the number on the scale.

The review study, published in the journal iScience, is important because it confirms a growing theory in medicine that physical activity — walking, running, lifting weights, etc., — is a better indicator of health than your weight or BMI.

The researchers analyzed results from studies about exercise, fitness, metabolic health, longevity, and more, which included a total of some tens of thousands of participants, most of whom had overweight or obesity. They were trying to see, “in effect… whether someone who is heavy gets more health bang from losing weight or getting up and moving. The contest, they found, was not close,” according to the New York Times.

“The magnitude of benefit was far greater from improving fitness than from losing weight,” said Glenn Gaesser, PhD, a study co-author and professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University in Phoenix.

The findings of this study are great not only because they take the pressure off of people to monitor the scale and shed pounds, and instead encourage a shift of focus to healthy movement, exercise, and functional fitness. But they also exist in the greater context of recent studies that have shown how hard it is to lose weight through exercise. For example, one recent study suggested that for people who exercise, it’s very hard to lose weight as the body compensates for calories burned during a workout.

Exercise doesn’t just help prevent an early death. A study published last week confirmed that exercise and eating a balanced diet with vegetables and fruits were basically the key to happiness. Other research has shown that exercise could have a conceivable link to brain health — and could even stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s.

In other words, there’s a growing body of research that shows that physical fitness is hugely beneficial to overall health, and that doesn’t require being skinny. If you’re wondering what to make of this study, it’s just that increasing your physical activity and fitness — going on walks, hikes, a brisk run here or there, and picking up a dumbbell or a bodyweight workout regularly — matters a lot more than having a shredded six-pack.

So live a balanced life, and exercise in a way that allows you to keep up with your kids and bend over to grab their toys without throwing out your back.