According to a recent review article published in iScience, increasing physical activity and improving fitness are more important goals than weight loss. The authors say that a weight-neutral approach to the treatment of weight-related health conditions also reduces the health risks associated with weight cycling.
In their review, the authors cite research focused on mortality risk reduction associated with weight loss compared to that associated with an increase in physical activity or cardiorespiratory fitness. They also looked at the magnitude of reduction in the risk markers of cardiovascular disease associated with either weight loss or increased physical activity. They used meta-analyses from several different studies, done over a range of time periods and places.
"We would like people to know that fat can be fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes," says co-author Glenn Gaesser of the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University. "We realize that in a weight-obsessed culture, it may be challenging for programs that are not focused on weight loss to gain traction. We're not necessarily against weight loss; we just think that it shouldn't be the primary criterion for judging the success of a lifestyle intervention program."
Obesity is believed to be associated with health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and more. But weight cycling is also associated with health problems, including muscle loss, fatty liver disease and diabetes. Therefore, the authors concluded that by focusing on fitness rather than weight loss, people can gain the benefits of exercise while avoiding the risks associated with weight cycling.
Current public health guidelines recommend that adults accumulate 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75-150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity physical activity.