Health benefits of being overweight?

Aug 25, 2010 at 5:33 p.m. ET

We all know that carrying around excess weight can be bad for us, but recent research is starting to show that being a little overweight won’t actually kill us. In fact, people who are slightly overweight can experience some health benefits that their skinnier counterparts may not. Here’s more on being fat and fit.

Overweight woman exercising

Fitness at any weight

Can't lose those last five pounds? Don't worry; sweat to it! According to doctors, it's better to be slightly overweight and fit than to be thin and idle. That's because people who exercise – regardless of their body size – dramatically reduce their mortality risk. Sure, it's better to be fit and lean, but as long as you're working out and eating a nutritious diet, your heart and body will benefit.

Overweight people are happy people

There are a growing number of people who are embracing the extra pounds they carry. A perfect example is Crystal Renn, the American model who recently released the book Hungry, an exposé on the fashion industry's obsession with being thin. After years of starving herself for the catwalk, Renn took a break from modeling, gained 70 pounds and emerged as a size 12. She now claims to have found a size and weight that works for her. It's a trend some experts are starting to support: Each of us can be happy, fit and well within a broad range of weights. What's more, if you learn to embrace your body shape and size, research shows, you'll be less stressed about losing those last few pounds and will learn to enjoy life more – something that's exceptionally important to our mental health and well-being, say scientists.

Obesity and health dangers

There is an indisputable link between obesity and health complications: People who carry around dozens of extra pounds, and who remain inactive and eat poorly may die younger than their leaner counterparts. But a recent study found that 51 percent of overweight adults who remained health-conscious had mostly normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides. What's more, they found that a few extra pounds don't increase someone's risk of dying of heart disease or stroke – that is, of course, if the person takes care of herself with exercise.

Stay fashionably fat and health-conscious

Many fashion companies are making efforts to accommodate women who may not be a size 2. Researchers say this kind of change is a good thing. If you feel good about how you look on the outside, the theory goes, you're more likely to take care of how you feel on the inside – and you're also more likely to engage in health-conscious activities. A few of the lines to look out for? Jessica Biffi's beautiful new collection for Addition ELLE, the amazing new website Beautiful Style Plus, and the new eco-friendly line Allistyle, a collection of clothing that's not only fashionable, but comfortable; the tagline is I AM AS I AM, naturally strong + intelligent fashion.

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