Most people who decide they need to lose weight are aiming to improve their appearance, but the health benefits of good nutrition and a sound exercise program are ultimately far more valuable.
Study after study has demonstrated that obesity is a significant threat to longevity and good health, but many people are not even aware that they are medically obese – the generally accepted definition of obesity is over 25% body fat for men, and over 32% body fat for women. An estimated 20% of American adults fit this profile.
The problem only gets worse with time: The average American adult puts on about a pound a year after the age of 25, meaning that by middle-age many people have put on 25 pounds or more. To make matters worse, your metabolism naturally slows down as you age, while at the same time, sedentary adults tend to lose one pound of lean muscle mass every year from inactivity, depressing metabolism even more.
The dangers of excess body fat range from insulin resistance and diabetes to heart disease and cancer, and the cause-and-effect relationship is not difficult to understand: If you are overweight, your heart has to work that much harder to supply fresh blood to the body, making everything from moving around to simple breathing more of an effort. Over time, this extra effort takes its toll, resulting in damage to the heart muscle.
Obesity also comes with a greater risk of high cholesterol, which can increase the chances of developing arteriosclerosis, in which the blood flow in the arteries is slowly choked off by plaque deposits, depriving internal organs of adequate blood supply and forcing the heart to pump harder, raising blood pressure. A full 25% of heart problems today can be traced directly to obesity.
While many people may be aware that obesity can damage the heart, few are aware that it can also result in a higher risk for cancer – in men, being overweight comes with a higher risk of prostate and colon cancer, while in women the risk of uterine and breast cancer is significantly higher. It is believed that excess body fat serves as storage for carcinogenic toxins in the body, and these toxins can leach from fat packed around the internal organs.
The good news is that by losing weight you can undo much of the damage caused by excess body fat and reduce your risk factors for cancer and heart disease – in fact, studies have shown that losing just 10-15% of your body weight can improve your overall heart health and cholesterol levels even more than prescription drugs in many cases.
Those who lose weight and exercise regularly have proven to be eight times less likely to die of cancer and heart disease, and 53% less likely to die of other diseases. Even if it takes you several years to implement a healthier way of life, the results over the long term will be more than worth the effort.