In the 2017/2018 National Health Survey, over 35% of Australians were defined as overweight, with a further 30% of Australians classified as obese.
Obesity is defined by the World Health Organisation as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30kg/m2. Rates of obesity have increased dramatically over the last 3 decades and is fast becoming a leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in Australia. Interestingly, 9/10 individuals who present to primary care services will have a co-morbid health condition such as Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease or cancer.
With such high prevalence within our Australian population, it’s important to understand the safety parameters around exercise and physical activity.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that exercise alone is unlikely to change fat mass or body weight. Weight loss is far more effective when paired with an appropriate diet intervention. Despite this, exercise is still essential in maintaining and improving health, especially when you consider the other health conditions that may be present.
Studies show that those who are overweight but continue to exercise, are far less likely to experience cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance or poor lipid readings. Regular physical activity can help to improve long-term health and increase metabolic health, cardiovascular health and mental health. So whilst exercise isn’t a stand alone fix for weight loss, it is excellent for managing and reducing the risk of disease.
Research also shows that more frequent exercise is desirable, ideally 3-5 times per week. Low impact exercise is a great place to start, things such as walking, cycling, water aerobics and swimming. This can help the joints adapt to exercise. From there you can slowly progress to higher impact activities.
An important thing to note is that there aren’t any exercises that somebody with a high BMI absolutely can’t or shouldn’t do. It’s all dependent on the individual and their health. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy! You are far more likely to stick to an exercise routine you enjoy, compared to the ‘perfect’ plan. P.s – there is no such thing as a perfect plan!
Some considerations before starting exercise include:
- Medication – some medication such as Orlistat may have side effects such as diarrhoea and abdominal pain. While this isn’t a contraindication to exercise, it’s something to consider.
- Post bariatric surgery: There may be a risk of low iron or nutritional deficiencies. We need to consider this along with your recovery and intensity of exercise.
- Other health considerations such as cardiovascular disease and respiratory conditions. Exercise is certainly important, but a referral to your Exercise Physiologist is recommended to ensure you have a safe exercise program.
If you are struggling with your weight, we understand that starting an exercise program might be really scary. You might feel intimidated by a gym, or uncertain of what you can achieve. Trust us when we say, exercise is absolutely achievable and we can modify all movements to ensure you feel safe and comfortable.
If you’d like help getting started, contact us today!