What Is Obesity?
Learn what is obesity, its most common causes, the effects on health, treatment.
Obesity is a health threatening condition which occurs when a person accumulates excessive body fat. This can come about when an individual consumes more energy, contained in food sources such as carbohydrates, than they expend. Weight gain can also occur when an individual has a low metabolism.
Obesity can be classified by utilising the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale. This measurement is calculated by using a person’s height and weight – a figure is determined by squaring an individual’s height in metres and dividing this number by weight in kilograms. The figure taken from this equation represents an individual’s BMI – if the person has a BMI above the number 25 they can be considered to be overweight. If the BMI figure is 30 or larger, the individual can be considered obese. An optimum BMI, conversely, is between 18.5 and 24.9 marks.
Obesity is often linked to poor or unconsidered diets and is particularly rife amongst those who eat more meat, fat, sugars and energy dense foods whilst indulging in little to no exercise. Unfortunately, obesity can lead to the risk of chronic diseases particularly those related to the heart. As well as cardiovascular diseases, obese individual’s find themselves at the threat of diabetes, gallbladder disease, insulin resistance, sleep apnoea, osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal disorders, impaired fertility, hormone abnormalities and even, potentially, endometrial, breast and colon cancers.
The best way, of course, to prevent obesity is to improve diet and ensure regular exercise. The earlier these activities are undertaken the better as children who are obese are also more likely to be obese later in life.
Weight gain, and thusly obesity, often occurs when an individual eats substances which contain a large degree of energy but then do not work to burn this off. Unused energy reconstitutes itself as mass, in the form of fat, stored for the human body to use later. As such it is useful to consider what exact levels of energy are being consumed as from this figure it is possible to work out how much exercise should be undertaken to maintain or lose weight.
Adults have a recommended daily intake of calories which they can then use to mathematically figure out how much physical activity to engage in per day to manage their weight. In general, for females aged between 19 and 50 the recommended daily allowance for calories is 1940, whereas males of the same age are recommended up to 2550. So, for example, a man who consumes 2550 calories a day should burn the same amount to stay the same weight; if the same amount of calories were consumed but only 2000 calories were burnt per day, an individual would gain weight at about the rate of 1 lb per week (as 3,500 calories equals roughly one pound of fat).
Although the body naturally burns off a degree of fat itself, physical activity should also be pursued to encourage this. To burn off excess calories it is recommended for healthy adults to undertake at least two and half hours per week of moderate aerobic activity, which can include brisk walking or swimming, or half that time on more vigorous activity such as running. Depending on the person undertaking the exercise the amount of calories burnt for a number of different activities can vary but, for the example, a 200 lbs individual can burn a high amount of calories per hour spent on a number of activities. For leisurely cycling a 200 lbs individual can burn up to 364 calories per hour but for more intense exercises, such as high impact aerobics, jogging or swimming, an individual can burn off well in excess of 600 calories per hour. One of the easiest ways to measure how many calories are being burnt is to use electronic gym equipment, such as exercise bikes, which can tell users the amount of energy being expended.
Never overexert oneself whilst exercising as this could cause injury and completely halt exercise. Finally, never go a full day without eating – this can cause the body’s metabolism to slow down and will negatively impact on its ability to naturally break down fats. Instead have several small meals throughout the day.
- Obesity and Cancer: Questions and Answers – National Cancer Institute