Over the years, some experts have touted fitness over fatness as a measure of health. But does that mean it's OK to be overweight if you hit the gym on a regular basis?

It's been a common line of thinking that the high blood pressure and cholesterol levels that are often seen in overweight individuals are to blame for the increased disease risk, rather than the fat itself. And because regular exercise can help to keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check, it was believed that overweight individuals might not face an increased risk so long as they got enough exercise.

While being overweight and fit is better for your health than being an overweight couch potato, research shows the excess weight itself is still a major risk factor for developing heart disease and diabetes.

But if you are of normal weight or even on the thin side, that doesn't mean you are off the hook either.

Where you carry your weight plays an important role in how healthy you are. Carrying excess fat around your middle - even if your weight isn't otherwise a problem - increases your risk of developing health problems more than weight carried anywhere else on the body.

But here's where working out comes into play: Research has shown exercise works better than diet alone when it comes to targeting deep belly fat.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team