Adults with a healthy weight but a sedentary lifestyle may have the same risk for heart attacks or strokes as people who are overweight.
A recent study suggests that normal-weight people who spent much of the day sitting but still hit minimum recommended weekly exercise targets of 150 minutes of moderate activity had about a 58 percent lower risk of a heart attack or stroke than overweight people.
But when individuals with a normal weight sat around most of the time and got very little exercise, their risk of serious cardiac events wasn’t significantly different from that of overweight people.
“Being at normal weight is not sufficient to be healthy,” said lead study author Arch Mainous of the University of Florida in Gainesville.
“This matters for patients because they may get a false sense of security by just looking at the number on the scale,” Mainous said by email. “A sedentary lifestyle can erode the advantage of a healthy weight and increase the cardiovascular risk to that of their overweight counterparts.”
When people are sedentary - especially in middle age and beyond - they lose lean muscle mass and cardiorespiratory fitness, Mainous said.
Participants in the current study were ages 40 to 79, without a history of heart disease. Researchers used the standard American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association risk-factor calculator (www.cvriskcalculator.com/) to assess people's risk of events like heart attacks and strokes. A high risk was at least a 7.5 percent chance of this happening over the next decade. A "low risk" was a less than 7.5 percent chance.