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Emphasizing Weight-Neutral Fitness

Boosting fitness improves health more effectively than pushing weight loss efforts.

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Woman exercising with weight-neutral fitness strategy

Nearly 50% of Americans will be obese by 2030 if current trends continue, according to U.S. government surveys. Leading researchers propose a “weight-neutral” strategy that focuses on increasing physical activity and improving cardiorespiratory fitness, instead of weight loss. The conclusions—drawn from review of more than 200 studies—is published in iScience (2021; 24 [10], 102995).

Meta-review study authors, including longtime obesity, fitness and health researcher, Glenn Gaesser, PhD, professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University, recommend that the focus be on fitness rather than weight loss to allow people to benefit from exercise and avoid the risks of losing and gaining weight repeatedly. Using a weight-neutral strategy does not mean that weight loss is unimportant, but rather that a spotlight on upping physical activity may increase success and boost odds of improving overall health, thus reducing risk factors and avoiding the repetitive failure that often goes with a “weight-centric” approach.

“We would like people to know that fat can be fit, and that fit and healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes,” said Gaesser.

See also: Weight Bias in the Health and Fitness Industry


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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