Recent studies found that over 60 percent of all Americans are overweight and 33 percent are considered obese, so it is not surprising to find that weight loss is one of the most popular goals each year. Unfortunately, our American lifestyle does not lend itself toward effective weight loss.
A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20 percent or more above what is considered their normal weight. This can create a myriad of other problems, including high blood pressure; Type II Diabetes; heart disease; and breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Obesity also leads to a more rapid breakdown of our joints and, therefore, an earlier onset of osteoarthritis. Significant obesity has been found to steal as many as 20 years from a normal life time and can diminish the health and well-being of the remainder. As a result of these and other issues, obesity costs the economy a shocking $117 billion dollars per year.
There are many different causes for obesity in our society. As a nation we have grown more sedentary as technology has advanced. Gone are the days of scrubbing clothes and dishes by hand or clearing land to plant crops to feed ourselves. Today, many jobs principally require a computer, desk, and chair to get things done. Then, after a long day’s work sitting at the computer, we come home and eat highly processed, fattening foods, followed by an evening of watching our favorite TV shows on the couch.
The number one strategy to prevent or treat the obesity epidemic is simple – burn more calories than you consume! The best ways to achieve this goal are to simply move more and consume less.
If you are not taking time out of your busy life for some form of exercise, your metabolism will slow more and your ability to burn calories will decrease. Exercise should include at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 3 – 5 times per week, depending on your fitness level. This is the kind of exercise that increases your heart rate and keeps it elevated. Don’t exercise so hard that you cannot carry on a conversation. Keep it just below that level.
Perform 30 minutes of strength training 1 – 3 times per week, depending on your fitness level. Science has shown that if you maintain your muscle mass, your body will simply burn more calories, even at rest! You lose roughly three percent of your muscle mass for every year past your 30s when you don’t maintain it through exercise. Work at it and you can slow that muscle loss to a crawl! Look for opportunities during daily life to move a little more.
- Park farther away from the store
- Take the stairs
- Look for excuses to walk or cycle somewhere rather than drive
- Turn off the TV and walk away from the computer. Set a time limit and then do something that requires movement!
Much of the obesity epidemic in America can be traced to two primary eating problems. We eat too much and we eat junk! By choosing foods wisely and decreasing our portion sizes, we can have a positive impact on our weight.
Here are a few strategies:
- Eat smaller portions and more frequently
- Add another fruit and vegetable to your plate
- Plan your meals and grocery list out for the week so that you can avoid the last-minute fast food run
- Stay away from soda pop. Drink more water!
- Pack your own lunch to work. Going out to eat has been linked to over eating and therefore to obesity.
When you are pondering how to improve your health this year, make exercise and diet a part of your strategic plan for a healthier you. You may be surprised that some of those nagging pains just go away after you shed some of those extraneous pounds.
If pain is getting in the way of your exercise designs, ask your physical therapist about what you might modify in order to get the exercise necessary to help keep the weight off.