Have you seen a morbidly obese woman doing the splits and were amazed?

Did this make you think she is healthy and fit?

Morbid obesity is when a person is at least 100 pounds over their ideal weight.

Doing the splits is impressive because few people can do this, and it looks so cool.

This may appear even more impressive when a morbidly obese person is doing them, since the observer may wonder how “someone so fat could get down all the way.”

Front splits: When someone is on the floor, but one leg is straight out in front, and the other is behind her.

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A full front split is when the woman is completely sitting on the floor.

Side splits: When someone sits on the floor with their legs spread out to the side, forming a “V.” A complete side split is when the angle formed by their legs is 180 degrees.

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So how IS it possible?

The reason the splits are possible in some very obese women is the same for much thinner women.

But there is an exception for the side splits.

The “V” flexibility is evident in some cases on “My 600 Pound Life.” The massive, overhanging belly in a bedbound individual forces the legs to be spread apart at all times. As the belly grows over the years, the legs get pushed out further.

With that said, this article focuses on women who are 100 to 200 pounds overweight.

If they’re extremely flexible, it’s for the same reason a much lighter woman would be:

It’s either natural and/or from deliberate training. It’s no more easier for a 270 pound woman to increase leg and hip flexibility than it would be if she weighed 150.

But if a 150 pound woman is naturally very flexible, gaining 100 pounds will not stiffen her up. Nor will morbid obesity prevent a woman from achieving impressive flexibility if she works at it faithfully enough. The younger she is, the more flexible she can make herself.

Flexibility training does not require cardiovascular output or joint impact. One can sit comfortably on the floor and stretch: no huffing and puffing required.

Why You Shouldn’t Assume a Very Plus-Size Woman Is Healthy or Fit just Because She Can Do the Splits

“I do not believe the ability to perform splits is a strong marker of good cardiovascular health,” says Carlos González Quesada, MD, FACC, attending cardiologist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Medical Group of Southern California.

“Let’s imagine a hypothetical patient who has risk factors for coronary artery disease such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, family history, male gender, age.”

Keep in mind that obesity is a major risk factor for high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

Dr. Quesada explains, “Even if this individual can perform splits, he could be at an elevated risk of developing heart disease.

“In the setting, preventive cardiology consultation may be needed to determine if this patient may benefit from aspirin and statins, or other interventions.

“When physicians estimate a patient’s risk for future cardiovascular events, we consider multiple characteristics that have been identified in research studies as strong predictors for heart attacks and strokes.”

These include obesity, especially morbid; low levels of physical activity; type 2 diabetes (obesity is a significant risk factor); a diet high in processed foods; high sodium intake; and smoking.

Natural Flexibility Doesn’t = Healthy Heart

When I was in a martial arts school many years ago, there were two grade school sisters who were obese.

They were new to karate and had no other experience that could explain this such as dance lessons, yet were able to do an almost 180-degree side split. They were freakishly naturally flexible.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this ability stayed with them – even if they dropped out of karate – well into adulthood – even if they eventually became morbidly obese. Remember, some women are naturally very flexible.

Whether a woman is thin or fat, this ability also does not mean their joints or muscles are stronger.

Sure, it always looks so cool, and is VERY beneficial in certain disciplines such as martial arts forms competitions, kicking your MMA opponent in the head, making a cheerleading squad or gymnastics team, winning a dance contest and rock climbing.

But this show move is not an indicator of health and fitness, nor is it predictive of future health or fitness.

However, the ability to do the splits likely indicates that the individual participates in a physical discipline (e.g., yoga, dance, martial arts), and of course, that participation will improve fitness.

Dr. Quesada is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases, with subspecialties in general cardiology plus interventional and structural cardiology. He evaluates and treats many conditions including shortness of breath, chest pain, coronary blockages and clot disorders. cvmg.com/carlos-quesada-md
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.