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A new Clinical Cardiology study examines the average fitness level of the morbidly obese (BMI between 40.0 and 49.9). The study results show that the tested population remained sedentary for more than 99 % of the day and walked less than 2,500 steps per day, which is far below healthy living guidelines of 10,000 steps per day.

Such results confirm important links between obesity, poor fitness and cardiovascular disease.

To continually measure physical activity, caloric expenditure and movement minute-by-minute over a 72-hour period, the researchers used a precise body sensor. After collecting all the data, each subject was structured cardiorespiratory fitness testing.

Most morbidly obese were markedly sedentary. They spent on average, 23 hours and 51.6 min per day sleeping or engaging in sedentary activity while the remaining 8.4 minutes were spent in moderate activity.

The highest level of activity attained by any single individual during one 24-hour period was 28 minutes of moderate activity. Not one individual spent any length of time at a high level of activity and two individuals spent the entire period in sedentary activity during the observation period.

Obesity contributes to five of the top 10 diseases with the highest mortality rates: cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and cancer.

It has been previously shown that, obese individuals with moderate-to-high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness have cardiovascular death rates 71 % lower than their unfit counterparts. Low cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent predictor of mortality in normal weight, overweight and obese individuals alike. Morbidly obese individuals, however, have severely reduced cardiorespiratory fitness that is similar to those with established systolic heart failure.

Researchers say that their findings have important implications for the relationship between obesity and physical activity. They are hoping that these findings will add incentive to increase physical fitness in the obese population and increase the awareness of healthcare professionals of the need for recommending physical activity in these patients, since lighter amounts of physical activity may yield significant health benefits. Light walking in speeds of 1 to 2 miles per hour shows significant health benefits. Over time, increasing amounts of light physical activity may improve aerobic capacity and ultimately reduce mortality.


I think obesity may be a result of civilized society where foods are often plentiful and physical activity is not a prerequisite for survival. I doubt obesity was ever in the vocabulary of our prehistoric ancestors when foods were often hard to come by and life was hard.