Twin Epidemics

Obesity and Diabetes are being described as the “twin epidemics” by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Obesity affects more than 39 million American adults with diabetes affecting over 17 million American adults.  Obesity is described as having an excessively high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, gall bladder disease, and cancer.  Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin or use it properly which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, neurological conditions, and amputations. 


Studies show that physical activity can help prevent and control both obesity and diabetes.  A landmark study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that people at risk for type 2 diabetes could reduce the likelihood of developing the disease by 58% through 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise and by weight reduction, eating a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.  Individuals who haven’t exercised on a regular basis may risk injury by starting a program without professional advice.  Physical therapists, with their expertise in body mechanics, can develop appropriate exercise programs for people at risk of developing obesity and diabetes or for those who have the disease.  Michael Mueller, PT, PhD, associate professor of physical therapy at Washington University School of Medicine, states the importance of at-risk individuals work with professionals who can help them design a safe and thorough individualized regimen.  “Range of motion, mobility, and flexibility often are greatly reduced in people who are overweight or obese, thereby increasing their chances for serious injury from an improper exercise regimen”, says Mueller.


More than ever, children are being affected with obesity and type 2 diabetes.  The super-sizing of fast food, video games that keep children in front of TV’s and computers, and cuts in physical education classes in schools are just some of the factors that contribute to these risks.  The CDC in May 2002 reported “a disturbing increase” in the hospital costs related to childhood obesity, noting that hospital stays for youths with obesity-related conditions had more than tripled in the past 20 years. Some proactive measures to fit physical activity into our children’s lifestyle would include limiting television, video game and computer time, plan group activities with friends which include physical activity, giving our children positive feedback about his/her lifestyle, and provide a positive example ourselves by being more physically active in our daily lives.  When it comes to healthy lifestyles, we should make regular exercise a family affair.