Obesity has become a major public health concern in the U.S. during the past few decades. Obesity is a label for a range of body weight that is greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height.
Obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the body mass index or BMI. A BMI below 25 is considered normal. A BMI ranging 25-29.9 is considered to be overweight, and a BMI ranging 30-39.9 is considered obese. Any value of greater than 40 is considered morbidly obese. For example, if someone were 220 pounds, 5 feet 10 inches, their BMI would be 31.6, which is considered obese.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the past 40 years obesity in adults has steadily climbed. This can be contributed to poor diets and lack of physical activity or exercise. Obesity has shown to correlate with many health risks, including high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Individuals who are overweight or obese may find they need medication to counteract the burdens of weight gain. Some individuals may rely on medication to lower their cholesterol, balance their insulin or lower their blood pressure. In extreme cases, some individuals may be on multiple medications in order to reduce the effects of being obese.
The primary concern in becoming obese is the stress placed on the heart. If actions are not taken to reduce the stress some issues may become permanent or life threatening.
Overwhelming evidence exists suggesting physical activity can lower health risks associated with obesity. USDHHS suggests all adult Americans should engage in moderate intensity physical activity, like a brisk walk, for at least 150 minutes per week, or vigorous intensity physical activity, like running, for at least 75 minutes per week.
There are many ways to be physically active. Different types of physical activities consist of housework, walking the dog, yard work and taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
By being physically active, the heart is being exercised and strengthened. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers great tips and ideas for adult and child physical activity at www.cdc.gov.
By increasing daily activities, our bodies become more fit, which allow us to gain more energy. Increasing physical activity also has been shown to increase awareness, mood and even help reduce depression. By being physically active you may increase chances of living longer and reduce the burdens of obesity. In talking with many people who have decided to become more active in their lives, I have found they feel a gain in youth and have a happier attitude toward life. The idea is that it all starts with you and your health.
To calculate your BMI, visit the CDC BMI calculator at www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi.