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Is 'Overfat' the New Obesity?

Body mass index (BMI), a formula that divides your weight by the square of your height, is one of the most commonly used measures of overweight, obesity and overall health. A recent CNN report discussed its shortcomings and large number of people who fall through the cracks of the overly simplified classifications of the BMI. 

Overfat describes an individual whose weight falls within the normal range on the body mass index (BMI) scale but has a dangerous level of body fat. The typical overfat person has a significant amount of belly (visceral) fat — the classic beer belly — but is otherwise not overweight. Overfat typifies the shortcomings of the BMI and exposes its obvious flaws. 

Many overfat individuals not only are unaware of the potential health challenges they need to address, but also that visceral fat is far more hazardous to your health than subcutaneous fat (the more noticeable fat found just under your skin). The danger of visceral fat is related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and enter your liver, and affect how your body breaks down sugars and fats.

Your waist-to-hip ratio is a more reliable indicator of your future disease risk because a higher ratio suggests you have more visceral fat. Far too many experts are wed to the BMI and fail to understand why it is a fundamentally flawed diagnostic tool. 
Your fitness level is also a far better predictor of mortality than your BMI. Studies have found that people who rarely exercised had a 70 percent higher risk of premature death than those who exercised regularly, independent of their BMI. If you want a simple test to gauge your fitness level, try the abdominal plank test. If you can hold an abdominal plank position for at least two minutes, you're off to a good start. If you cannot, you're likely lacking in core strength, which is important for overall movement stability and strength.

Rather than stressing over an arbitrary number like your BMI, you'd be better served by coming up with a comprehensive fitness plan. I recommend incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training (including super slow), core exercises, stretching and non-exercise activity into your routine. The key is to simply get moving, and work at a high enough intensity with enough variance to keep your muscles adequately challenged.

Every person is different, so there's not just one "correct" way to exercise. Equally, if not more, important is incorporating regular intermittent movement into your day, as this will help to counteract some of the effects excess sitting has on your body. If you exercise correctly and keep moving throughout your day, and combine it with a healthy eating program, you will optimize your body-fat percentage naturally, and with it gain a predisposition for optimal health.
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