Obesity is a condition caused by the accumulation of excessive body fat. Nearly 100 million Americans are obese or overweight. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic.
A full 68% of the adult population in the United States currently is estimated to be overweight, and about 36% are obese. It is also estimated that 10% of children in the United States aged 2 to 5 years, 15% of children aged 6 to 11 years, and 16% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years are overweight. Obesity increases the chance of early death; around 325,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributed to obesity.
Adults and children can be classified as normal, overweight, or obese by calculating their body mass index (BMI) based on their height and weight. For example, adults are considered overweight if their BMI is 25 to 29, and obese if their BMI is 30 or higher.
Obesity may be triggered by genetic, environmental, behavioral, social, physiological, and cultural factors. Sedentary lifestyles and surplus caloric intake are considered to be primarily responsible for the dramatic worldwide increase in obesity during the past 2 decades.
Obesity affects people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic levels. It contributes to many chronic diseases and can even cause early death. It can contribute to joint pain, due to increased stress that excess body weight puts on joints, muscles, and spinal discs. It can also cause a loss of “function”—the ability to perform simple daily activities like walking, climbing stairs, or doing household chores.
Numerous options for treating obesity are available today, including reduced-calorie diets, physical exercise, behavior modification, medication, and surgery. Physical therapists are experts in physical exercise, and can develop individualized physical activity plans for individuals who are overweight or obese to manage weight, prevent the development of obesity, or combat its effects.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help?
Physical therapists can help people who are obese to be more physically active and fit by teaching them to exercise in pain free and fun ways. The right exercise is very important because it helps burn calories, get rid of fat, preserve muscle tissue, and protect your joints. When you start a fun exercise routine, it also helps you make better choices about your diet.
Your physical therapist will work with you to design a specific treatment program to address your needs, including exercises you can do at home. Aerobic exercise and strength training will likely be included in your program, as they both help in weight loss and weight control. Physical therapists are trained to create safe, effective physical activity programs for people of all ages and abilities, taking into account the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention physical activity recommendations for children and adults.
Physical therapists can also help individuals address any underlying reasons for their unhealthy behaviors; they are trained to identify any barriers to developing healthy habits, setting individual goals, and sticking to the program. Your physical therapist can help you:
Reduce pain. Your physical therapist will design a personalized exercise program to help you safely perform activities with the least amount of pain. Just getting up and getting moving can help relieve pain!
Improve cardiovascular fitness. Your physical therapist will design a “heart-healthy” aerobic exercise program for you, to elevate your body’s metabolism and burn more calories. Physical therapists help people, including adults and children with disabilities find fun aerobic activities they can perform at their own comfortable level.
Improve strength. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to address any muscle weakness you may have, or to improve your overall muscle strength. Building strength in muscles can help burn calories, make daily activities easier, and relieve joint pain. Gentle and low-impact forms of weight training performed with exercise bands can help avoid joint stress.
Improve movement. Your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement of stiff joints. These might begin with “passive” motions that the physical therapist performs for you, and progress to active exercises that you do yourself.
Improve flexibility and posture. Your physical therapist will determine if any of your major muscles are tight, and teach you how to gently stretch them. Your physical therapist will also assess your posture, and teach you exercises to improve your ability to maintain proper posture. Good posture can make difficult activities easier and less painful, and even improve your breathing.
Increase activity levels. Your physical therapist will discuss your activity goals with you, and design your exercise program to address your individual needs and goals. Your physical therapist will help you reach those goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible.
Source material from Move Forward PT- MoveForwardPT- Obesity