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Pick of the Week! 3/16/98

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Obesity Is A Big Deal.

By Scott Farmer

“One can always distinguish between juveniles and adults in mammalian species: The juveniles are always looking for something to do and the adults are always looking for someplace to sit down…”

Per-Olof Astrand, Exercise Physiologist.

During a time of super-sized meals, high-speed Internet, and increasing sport spectatorship, we find ourselves far less active and heavier than our ancestors.

We also find ourselves more stressed about finances and frustrated about escalating health insurance premiums, greater deductibles, larger co-pays and higher taxes. Our defined benefits have become defined contributions. We demand answers and look for reasons.

Our desire for enlightenment, ironically, is probably as close as the nearest mirror or scale. Our lifestyles have created a chain reaction that is hitting us all hard in our hearts as well as our pocket book, with the catalyst being obesity: 1 out 2 Americans will develop heart disease, 17% of heart disease cost is directly related to obesity and $99.2 billion is spent annually on individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 28.

Between 1985 and 1999 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) measured the change in obesity prevalence in the U.S. (Obesity being measured by a BMI greater than 25.) In 1985, 28 states reported no prevalence of obesity while 14 reported less than 10%. By 1999, 21 states reported obesity in more than 25% while another 21 states reported obesity levels between 15-20%. This dramatic increase has produced a tremendous health burden, killing on average 300,000 people a year. Not only has obesity been linked to increased human fatality, obesity and the lifestyle that is its genesis may be the impetus for most debilitating diseases.

Sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits are the first steps in this cycle of destruction. Obesity, which results from these two common lifestyle practices, produces conditions that are commonly linked to many diseases. Heart disease, stroke and cancer top this disease list. According to the CDC, high blood pressure is 75% directly linked to obesity while insulin resistant diabetes is more than 50% attributed to obesity. High cholesterol is also highly associated with obesity.

Dr. Tom Kottke, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, states, “When we work to prevent cardiovascular disease, we also reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and related diseases—the “lifestyle syndrome”. According to the CDC this would result in billions of dollars saved annually. Simply moving the U.S. population from a low fitness level to a moderate fitness level would save almost $76 billion annually.

Even though humans today eat more calories on average than their grandparents, 80% of all obesity can be associated with low caloric expenditure – LACK OF EXERCISE, both aerobic and strength conditioning. Forty percent of Americans acknowledge they get no regular exercise and 60% feel they get adequate amounts. Unfortunately for both groups, only 10 – 15 % actually get enough exercise to provide any health benefits, most coming from obesity prevention.

Obesity prevention, for most, is nothing more than maintaining a proper check and balance between calories consumed and calories expended. Calorie expenditure comes as a result of three mechanisms: Basal or resting metabolism is the calories burned at rest. This accounts for 70 % or more of your total daily expenditure and is a reflection of lean mass – the more muscle the more calories burned. Thermal effect of food is the calories expended as a result of digestion. Some foods actually require more calories to digest than others and accounts for approximately 10% of daily expenditure. Voluntary activity (aerobic exercise) is extremely variable and can account for 10 – 30 % of daily expenditure. Increasing the basal metabolic rate through strength conditioning and voluntary activity (aerobic exercise), enhancement of the burning mechanisms that make up 90% of daily caloric expenditure can be easily realized.

All people, of all ages, should try to expend 2,500 to 3,000 calories per week through an exercise program. This means walking 40 minutes per day at 3 mph equaling 2 miles, for a minimum of 7 days per week. This recommendation may seem higher than what has been suggested in the past. However, recommendations are always being reanalyzed. Do to the decline in occupational activity; recreational exercise recommendations have been increased. The benefits of aerobic exercise can be achieved in an incremental fashion, meaning four 10- minute bouts can hold the same health benefits, as one 40-minute bout as long as the intensity is met and the total calories burned is equivalent. Less than 10 minutes doesn’t seem to hold the same benefits.

If a person suffers from a health condition, having recommendations specific to your condition is very important. Check with your physician or clinical exercise physiologist before starting.

Strength conditioning is a form of exercise that should be done two to three times per week. As mentioned earlier, muscle mass is extremely important in improving resting metabolism and preventing and eliminating excessive body fat. Strength conditioning can be as easy as lifting homemade dumbbells (soup cans or plastic pop bottles) to as sophisticated as a Nautilus circuit trainer. To increase muscular activity, starting with a weight that can be lifted 10 – 15 repetitions should be adequate. To build more muscle, eventually increasing the intensity to a weight that can be lifted 6 – 8 times would be suggested. For those suffering from health conditions, sticking with a weight that can be lifted using the higher repetition method is recommended. Checking with your physician or a clinical exercise physiologist may also be warranted.

Getting involved in an exercise program doesn’t have to be difficult nor expensive, but does require a commitment. The investment will definitely pay off by reducing the risk for developing obesity, preventing the “lifestyle syndromes” and controlling health care cost. All this should equal a healthier community and pocket book.

If you have any question concerning diet and exercise, please contact the Minnesota Health Fitness and Sport.

Scott Farmer MS, CES, CSCS, CHFI
Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Smoking Cessation Counselor
Minnesota Health Fitness & Sport

Scott M Farmer MS. CSCS., CES
Minnesota Health Fitness and Sports ™
President and Owner
Exercise Physiologist and Strength Coach
Certified Cardiac Therapist
State Certified Smoking Cessation Counselor
Waiora Consultant and Broker
Set up your own home based business, I can help!

Where all natural meets medicinal

Toll Free 1-866-663-2502
Local 1-320-281-4032
Fax 1-320-230-1691

Scott Farmer MS, CSCS, CES (Coordinator)
Bachelor Degree in Exercise Physiology. University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 1990
Master Degree in Exercise Physiology with an emphasis cardiac rehab and counseling. Old Dominion University, Norfolk VA 1992
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist. American College of Sports Medicine 1994 to present
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. National Strength and Conditioning Association 2001 to present
Board member of Minnesota Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (MNACVPR) 1994 to 2004
President of MNACVPR 1996
Cardiac Therapist/Clinical Cardiology 1992 to 2005
Owner of Minnesota Health, Fitness and Sports org. 2002
Smoking Cessation counselor 1995 to present
Minnesota state smoking cessation counselor 2003 to present


Scott holds a master's degree in exercise physiology. He is certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and as a Clinical Exercise Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Scott has also studied hockey specific training under Peter Twist, an eleven-year veteran strength conditioning coach for the Vancouver Canucks. Athletically, Scott has played and trained in sports for over 30 years; having played High School, College, Semi-Pro and Amateur baseball. He has coached athletes from the little league level up to high school and is a certified hockey coach with USA Hockey TM

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