Obesity: how to deal with it and the role of sport

Obesity is undoubtedly one of the biggest problems in wellness societies. In Western countries, the percentage of obese people in recent years has increased dramatically. This leads to a lot of questions: how to deal with obesity? Why is it so common among young people as well? Is there a solution to this problem?

Obesity, however, is not a simple problem: it’s a disease, and it must be addressed as such.

Youth obesity

The data on obesity among young people in Italy show an alarming trend.

Many tend to link youthful obesity to the modern lifestyle of younger people, who tend to spend too much time on the couch playing games or watching TV, although fitness video-games have evolved significantly.

Bad eating habits and a lack of constant sporting activity are certainly the main causes of youth and child obesity, but a research sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Health shows they’re not the only ones. Mothers, in fact, have a determinant role: their distorted perception makes them hardly acknowledge the pathology of their children. Many other mothers, however, tend to deny that their child eats too much, and this has a decisive impact on becoming obese. Another related aspect is the lack of initiatives for healthier diet by schools.

In any case, child obesity is a very serious problem that should be dealt with paying special attention. Lifestyle is very important in the physical and mental development of children and the role of mothers is equally important, but only the right support to the child can make them avoid a pathology that causes very serious consequences in their adult life.

The consequences of obesity

What exactly are the effects of this pathology?

First of all, obesity shortens the average life expectancy: it is a risk factor for the development of vascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis, arterial hypertension, myocardial ischemia and heart failure. It can also cause respiratory and dysmetabolic diseases such as diabetes, joint diseases such as arthrosis, and often also neoplastic diseases.

Among these, obesity can also lead to psychological consequences, from a simple sense of inadequacy to significant behavioral disorders.

How to fight obesity

This disease can be solved, with the right support and appropriate therapies. Generally speaking, there are two main ways to deal with it effectively: changing our diet, reducing the amount of daily calories and paying attention to the right intake of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and introducing constant physical activity into our lifestyle.

Combining these two approaches obviously leads to faster and longer-lasting results.

It is obviously good to avoid a drastic diet, which can affect lean mass leading to a lowering of the basal metabolism and, as a consequence, to a reduction in the ability to burn calories. In order to avoid this effect, it’s very important to combine diet with exercise.

The role of sport

Physical activity is really necessary in tackling obesity.

People who suffer from obesity, however, very often don’t see sport as a solution to the problem. Some, in fact, don’t have the willpower to change their lifestyle while others, due to their physical condition, are unable to perform certain activities. ─ especially high-intensity training ─ due to cardiac and joint risks. As we already mentioned, however, following a low-calorie diet means a high risk of losing even lean mass. This is why a sporting activity, even a light one as jogging, can be fundamental to maintain this type of body mass.

How much sport is needed to tackle obesity?

The American College of Sports Medicine estimated that at least 250 minutes of physical activity per week are needed to properly address obesity. In this way, not only we can reduce our body weight, but we can also prevent or slow down regaining weight after the diet.

Clearly, for people with class 2 and class 3 obesity, a slightly more gradual approach is needed.

What kind of exercise is recommended?

In order to combat obesity, it’s always very important to alternate different types of physical exercise, including aerobic work, which can also be walking, anaerobic work, meaning overloads but also free-body work, and joint mobility, so static, proprioceptive and passive stretching training.

Anaerobic work, with or without weights, is very important to stimulate insulin sensitivity and avoid the loss of lean mass.

A myth we need to dispel is that aerobic work can harm the joints of obese people. When we talk about aerobic activity, in fact, we don’t only refer to running; on the contrary, simple continuous walks can be very useful, as it gets the body used to the imbibition into the cartilage, which in turn will improve hydration and give benefits to the cardiovascular system.

Playing sports gets obese people numerous advantages: not only losing weight, but also enabling all those functions that were previously compromised. In addition to increasing joint mobility and muscle tone, sport improves insulin sensitivity, cardiac and respiratory function, bone mineralization, and increases thermogenesis.

Furthermore, it increases the production of endorphins, stimulating a good mood and motivation. So there’s probably no better medicine as sport for dealing with obesity.

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