Tools can help Delawareans fight fat

Date Published: 
April 11, 2014

We all know that being overweight or obese is a very serious health problem. For Delawareans, the statistics are sobering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 34.7 percent of Delawareans are obese. The statistics for our kids are just as troubling, as 35.2 percent of 10- to 17-year-old Delawareans are overweight, too.

We’re all sensitive about our weight, and one of the biggest concerns I have is that people tend to turn the page or the channel when it comes to getting the facts. The problem is that most of us understand it’s a health hazard, but frustration and a sense of hopelessness tend to make us less likely to want to listen.

The truth is that there’s too much at risk to ignore. So, let’s start with what really matters — the health risks you’re taking when you continue on the current path.

I’m not going to hammer you with details. I know you’ll tune me out if I do, but just stay with me here for a brief overview. If you or your loved ones are overweight or obese, you are at far greater risk of being diagnosed with a number of cancers, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, breathing-related illnesses and reproductive problems.

Belly fat also places you at risk for memory impairment and dementia. This is particularly true for women. These are just some of the health problems, and none of them are pleasant.

You know that balancing your diet and reducing how many calories you take in every day is important, but I think too many people underestimate the importance of exercise or how even small steps can begin to change your life for the better. There are a slew of studies that have come to the same conclusion.

Even if you are overweight, regular physical activity increases life expectancy by several years and staves off those health problems I’ve been telling you about. In the process, it’s also going to do so much more. Beyond helping you drop those unwanted pounds, it helps keep muscles, joints and bones healthy, reduces the pain and swelling if you have problems such as arthritis, and it even improves your mood and helps you sleep better.

For you, your kids and those you care about, it comes down to choices. Is it worth risking your health and life span to maintain status quo? Is that the future you want for your kids or another loved one? I’m not saying it’s easy, but nothing comes easy. What you might not know is that getting help and knocking off those pounds can be a lot more doable than you think.

You might not realize is that there are readily available tools to help you or someone you care about to get on track. What are they and how do you get started? Safety comes first. You don’t want to begin without the proper guidance. Injuries can result and, if a medical problem exists, you could cause yourself harm and be forced to stop before you really get under way.

The first step starts with the doctor. Get some recommendations on how to begin. Doctors understand that there can be challenges when you are overweight or obese. Some folks have problems bending or even walking very far. There are strategies for dealing with that and many other problems, too.

You can expect your doctor will recommend that you get professional guidance and get started with an exercise plan from a professional that is built for your specific situation. A physical therapist with experience in sports training understands how to work with your doctor and create a plan that works for your health and physical limitations and will monitor you as you exercise to help you safely reach your milestones.

Don’t get put off by cost. Find out from the professional you consult if there are inexpensive programs to monitor your workouts and keep a watchful eye on you to prevent injuries. I offer them at Tidewater Physical Therapy, and there may be others out there, too. Don’t let money stop you. If you can’t afford any out-of-pocket costs, discuss the options with a professional.

Expect to start slowly so your body can adjust to its new reality. Before exercising, someone like me is going to get you started with warm-ups to gently prepare you to workout. Once your workout is done, you can also expect to be given a proper approach for a cool-down period. Slowing down gradually keeps you from getting hurt and offers important protection for your muscles, including your heart.

Working with your doctor, the professional guiding your exercise program will help you set realistic short- and long-term goals. For example, you might have a walking component to your fitness program. In the short term, you might only be walking for five or 10 minutes a few days a week. The long-term goal might be to get you walking 30 minutes a day for five or six days a week.

This will also help you track your progress and feel good about your achievements instead of getting overwhelmed and frustrated. As you gain strength and endurance, your plan will be adjusted.

Finally, keep the dialogue going. If you get dizzy or you have pain or you are feeling unusual shortness of breath, stop right there and tell your exercise professional. He or she will determine the best way to move forward and has the knowledge to understand whether to consult your doctor.

Talking is important for another reason, too. It may be that you find that a certain activity is too hard for you. Don’t beat yourself up. Talking to the professional guiding your program lets that person understand what you are feeling and gives them a chance to make adjustments to help you keep moving forward. No step is too small. Every step you take is important and brings you closer to a healthier you.

It’s time to wage war on fat. Tell the kids to stop texting. Get rid of the remote, turn off the computers and the game consoles, and get going. You have to start sometime, so make this your time. It may seem slow going, but be proud of those achievements because this really is about the rest of your life.

Bob Cairo is a licensed physical therapist at Tidewater Physical Therapy. He can be reached by calling (302)537-7260.