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Don't Fret About Thighs


Leah Camilleri, Beth Swank, Martha Tuke, Kristin Fitzgerald, Sheila Frank and Michelle Charles celebrate
their thighs at Goddess Hour in Brighton.  Photo by Megan Dailor

herrochester.com/Democrat & Chronicle Newspaper, February 22, 2012

Written by Arlene Hisiger

Not since comedienne Joan Rivers remarked that the late Elizabeth Taylor had gained so much weight her thighs would soon be “going condo,” has so much attention been paid to the area of the body extending from the hip to the knee.

Why the commotion?

It is common knowledge that someone sporting an apple- shaped figure, indicating accumulated upper body fat, is at greater risk for heart disease and a host of other major illnesses, than a person who is pear-shaped, signifying accumulated lower body fat.

Lesser known, perhaps, are the results of a comprehensive 12 ½-year Danish study, tracking 2,816 men and women ages 35 to 65, that revealed a startling discovery: “People with big thighs had a lower risk of heart disease and premature death than those with thin thighs.”

Crack out the Champagne? Not yet.

Since the study, cited in Harvard Men’s Health Watch in January, focused on thigh size, not composition, the jury is still out as to which contributing factor weighs most heavily, if you will, in providing the thighs’ owner the most protection: more muscle, more fat or both.

Will this study provide a welcome respite to those women who relentlessly strive for a model-thin physique?  Maybe.

Will these findings be relegated to the medical trash heap of promising but indeterminate conclusions? Dr. John Bisognano, cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, thinks not.

Calling it a novel study with data that was carefully analyzed, Bisognano found the study’s suggested thigh circumference measurement an easy measurement to make and “a unique and easy way to stratify people” for cardiovascular risk.

“While there is no completely perfect measure for cardiovascular risk,” Bisognano says, “this (study) provides another piece of good data.”

Marie Lovenheim, adjunct assistant professor at Monroe Community College and nutrition counselor at Pilates Plus in Pittsford, although being able to point out anecdotal support, was disappointed to find no mention of dietary factors.

“A study that continues for as long as this one did is bound to have included some dietary changes over the years,” Lovenheim says.

Jodi Stern Brennan, owner of Pilates Plus, thinks the study may make women think differently about their bodies.

“This study might increase women’s self-esteem in that it emphasizes that you don’t have to be model thin to be healthy,” she says.

Michelle Charles, co-owner of the Goddess Hour Dance and Fitness Studio in Brighton, says ideal body image is relative.

“As an owner of a dance and fitness studio, part of my job is to help women rethink their stance on their bodies,” she says.

For instance, in the Middle East, voluptuous women are highly prized.

“I love that there is a study published about this topic,” Charles says. “We all need a reminder to stop the negative self-talk and embrace our bodies as beautiful vessels for our souls.”

Hisiger is a Rochester-area freelance writer.


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