We've all come across someone in the past whom we made fast judgements about when we saw them. Perhaps someone overweight at school or at your local gym who just happens to be much better at swimming or spinning than everyone else. It doesn't tally with our belief that fit equals thin. But can a fat person be as fit as a thin person all depends on what we mean by fitness. There are sports and events where extra bulk is a positive advantage and so anyone who is overweight will be ‘fitter’ for that activity than their slimmer counterparts Sumo, Worlds Strongest Man....). These sports are relatively rare however and even those who partake in them would admit that while experts in their own fields they probably don’t shape up that well when measured by more generally accepted indicators of what it is to be ‘fit’.
Fitness for most people means fitness for life and long-term health. How we look, how our bodies perform and how we feel as we go about our regular routines. To get optimum results in these areas, many people will embark on one type of exercise routine or other. Often as we go about these routines, putting ourselves at a better advantage for the rigours of life, we may choose to add in some new challenges along the way in the form of fitness events, charity runs, bike rides, swimathons and so on.
If we were looking at general fitness and fitness for endurance events such as these, would a fat person perform as effectively as a thin person?
Sure, they would. There’s no good reason why they shouldn’t, provided they have trained specifically for the event and are properly prepared. Judging someone’s fitness by his or her size is ridiculous and even implies that all thin people are fit which is clearly not the case.
I can remember taking part in a sponsored bike ride at school where the father of one of my friend’s was leading a group of 15-year olds on a 45-mile ride. He looked completely out of shape but his appearance hid a fit pair of legs and an experienced set of lungs and he left us all trailing on the bike route and then cycled home again as we all collapsed into the train. I’ve also run many a Sunday morning race where I’ve seen, and been overtaken by, runners who look like they’re carrying too much excess baggage but are clearly very fit. The bottom line is that it’s not how much weight you’re carrying; it’s how you’ve conditioned your body for specific events that matters.