Update on obesity


As you may or may not know, I am a constant proponent of exercise, wellness, and nutrition. I have also been “preaching” for years about the obesity epidemic and the problems associated with it. You would be hard-pressed to channel-surf and not come across a commercial, infomercial, talk show, or reality show, which targets obesity. I recently came across an article in PM&R, the journal of injury, function, and rehabilitation on the problem and wanted to share the high points with you.

The obesity problem is not only affecting our nation’s health but also our health-care economy. In 2008, $147 billion was spent on obesity-related illnesses alone: almost 10% of all medical spending). It is estimated that two-thirds of all Americans are overweight (body-mass index 25-29.9) or obese (BMI > 30) and that over 70% do not exercise enough to achieve the benefits. The amount of time we spend sedentary is a predictor of our obesity associated health problems. In other words, the more time you spend sitting around and inactive, the greater are your chances of developing obesity, and associated diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease: these factors raise your chance of developing a stroke and /or heart attack. This also means that a sedentary person who exercises vigorously once a week for an hour or two has not made a significant impact on their health if they remain sedentary the remainder of the week. Regular bouts of physical activity throughout the day may prove to be more important and beneficial due to the reduction in circulating blood lipid and glucose (sugar) levels.

Some startling trends in our youth show that childhood obesity has tripled (20% in ages 12 to 19). In overweight or obese 5 to 10 year olds, about 60% have at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor (elevated blood pressure, insulin level, and/or cholesterol). It is now believed, based on these trends, that the current generation of youth will be the first with a shorter predicted life span than the preceding generation!

Overweight and obesity have been linked to decreased quality and quantity of life (life expectancy). From 1986 to 2000, the number of persons in the US classified as morbidly obese (over 100 pounds overweight) increased from 1 in 200 to 1 in 50 (4 times more common). Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the most common health condition related to obesity and is twice as common in obese individuals. This is reversible with weight loss.

In the work place, obese inactive individuals have greater health care costs and greater absenteeism. This is why proactive employers have started subsidizing health club memberships, exercise classes on site, or even have gyms located on campus. I encourage this whole-heartedly and commend these employers.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is closely linked with obesity. There is an increased risk of 9 to 13% of developing OA for every additional 2 lbs of weight gain. Obese women have 4 times the risk and obese men 5 times the risk of developing OA.

The good news is that obesity is reversible! (As if you didn’t already know that.) Exercise should be viewed as medicine and dosed accordingly. In other words, it should be “taken daily” in prescribed amounts. There are “side effects” if performed without caution and moderation. Proper strengthening and stretching should be performed as prescribed to prevent injury and maximize benefit. One size does NOT fit all in exercise prescription. This is why any fitness facility or health club encourages previously sedentary individuals or those with cardiovascular risk factors to consult with their physician before initiating an exercise program.

Contact my office for an appointment if you’d like to discuss losing your extra pounds with diet and exercise. I’m looking forward to meeting you!